Can I be Forced Back to Work?
Being Forced Back to Work Even Though You're Still Injured?
During the workers' compensation process, it can sometimes feel like you're fighting a losing battle. It seems as though everyone else knows the rules, but you don't even know where to begin.
This is especially true if your employer is trying to force you to go back to work. If you feel that you're too injured to return to your job, you may wonder about your options. We're here to tell you. We've helped over 8,000 clients with their work comp claims - that means we can give you the best advice possible.
Our free legal consultations let you ask us any questions you have about your claim. The goal is for you to understand your rights so you're comfortable with what the next steps should be. We'll go over the details of your situation and tell you what we think is best for you.
You can fill out a free legal consultation or call 412-394-1000. There's absolutely no obligation to use our services, and the consultation is free.
Can My Employer Force Me Back to Work?
As part of the Pennsylvania workers' compensation process, you will be asked to go on an "Independent Medical Examination" or (IME). This means that you will be examined by a physician who is selected and paid by your employer's insurance company.
Oftentimes, the result of the exam is predictable – the company doctor will state that you can return to work. They will say that you can resume work without restrictions or that you can go back to a light-duty job. In many cases, you will receive a "Notice of Ability to Return to Work."
Here's what you can do if you disagree with their decision:
1. Your employer says that you can go back to work, and the company doctor agrees. If this happens, you have the right to seek a second opinion. Be aware that if you get a second opinion from a doctor who is not listed at your workplace as a "panel physician," you'll most likely have to pay for the examination. If your own doctor doesn't think you're ready, you can refuse to return to work.
Your employer may file a "Petition to Terminate, Modify, or Suspend Benefits," but your benefits won't stop until a judge reviews your case. If this happens, you should contact us as soon as possible – it's important to have an attorney who can collect the proper evidence and represent you at your hearing.
2. Your employer says that you can go back to work, and your doctor agrees. If this happens and you refuse to go back to work, it's likely that you will lose your workers' compensation benefits. It's in your best interest to contact us right away, before your benefits are stopped.
In either one of these scenarios, not only is it important to seek legal advice, we recommend that you also maintain a good relationship with your treating physician. Get proper documentation of your doctor's recommendations at every appointment, even if you were given the same report you received last time. This way, you're aware of what's going on and there is no doubt about your work status – two important factors in building a strong workers' compensation case.
My Doctor Says I Can Have a "Light-Duty Job"… What Does That Mean?
A "light-duty job" is one that a doctor says you can perform with your medical restrictions. For example, a desk job instead of one that requires heavy labor. If your doctor releases you to light-duty work but your employer does not have a light-duty job available, you can continue to receive your Pennsylvania workers' compensation payments.
If your employer has a light-duty job available for you, the activities needed to perform the job have to be approved by your doctor. If the light-duty job pays less than what you made before you were injured, you would be entitled to receive partial disability payments.
Even after you return to your job, workers' compensation will continue to pay any reasonable and necessary medical expenses related to your work injury. In addition, your workers' compensation payments may start again if:
- You are laid off
- You are fired without cause
- Your doctor takes you off work again while you are on light-duty work