If you were injured on the job in Vermont and needed to take time off from work, you’re probably concerned about whether your job will be waiting for you when your leave is over. Unlike many other states, Vermont workers’ compensation laws provide some job-protection rights to injured workers. (For recently injured employees, see our article on how to file a workers’ comp claim in Vermont.)
Your employer is not required to hold your job open for you and may replace you or fire you while you’re out on workers’ comp leave. However, certain employers must reinstate injured workers to a suitable available position when they are ready to return to work.
This right to reinstatement applies only to employers with ten or more employees each working more than fifteen hours per week. To be eligible, you must have recovered from your injury within two years of the onset of your disability. You have recovered from your injury when you can safely perform the job duties of your prior position or an alternative suitable position with the employer.
If you qualify, your employer must reinstate you to the first available and suitable job, considering the position you had prior to the injury. You are entitled to regain all seniority and unused paid time off (such as personal days, sick days, or vacation time).
However, there are some exceptions. Your employer does not need to reinstate you if any of the following are true:
An employer cannot discriminate or retaliate against workers because they applied for workers’ compensation benefits. This means your employer cannot fire you simply because you filed a workers’ compensation claim. So if you believe you were fired because you exercised your legal rights, rather than because of your employer’s legitimate business needs, you should contact a lawyer.
A couple of federal laws might provide additional job protection, including the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The FMLA requires employers with 50 or more employees to provide up to 12 weeks of job-protected unpaid leave for a serious health condition that prevents you from working. If you are able to return to work after those 12 weeks, your employer must return you to the same job, or similar one. Vermont has a similar law that applies to much smaller employers; to learn more see our article on Vermont Family and Medical Leave.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) makes it illegal for employers with 15 or more employees to discriminate because of your disability. The ADA also requires covered employers to provide reasonable accommodations to individuals with disabilities if it would allow them to do their jobs. Vermont has a similar law. So, even if you’re not completely recovered from your injury, you might have the right to a reasonable accommodation if it would help you perform your job.