If you have been injured on the job, you may be facing a number of quandaries. First, you may be trying to navigate the workers’ compensation process. This can entail getting adequate medical treatment as well as paid time off of work for injuries. You may also be concerned about your job—especially if your recovery process is taking a long time or if you are not sure if you will be able to work in the same capacity after you heal. For example, perhaps your job involves heavy lifting, and you hurt your back in the workplace. Even if your back improves and you can return to work, you may worry that more heavy lifting will trigger your injuries once again.
Georgia is an at-will state and, unfortunately, can terminate an employee while they are out of work recovering from a work injury. However, a termination does not close your workers’ compensation claim.
Terminations may arise when an employee has been injured and has been out for a prolonged period and the company needs to replace them. Things can also get complicated when an employee needs to return to work in a different capacity. For example, a doctor may recommend light duties for an employee who was previously performing strenuous activities.
Other concerns may develop when companies downsize and lay off workers. Employees who are receiving workers’ compensation benefits should continue to receive those benefits. For example, if a worker is currently receiving medical care related to their occupational injury, they should continue to receive treatment as prescribed by the physician, including doctor follow-ups, physical therapy, prescription medication, mileage reimbursement (for doctor visits), etc.
If an employee has “total disability” status at the time of layoffs, his or her income benefits should not change. If employees are on “light duty” status, they may not be eligible for workers’ compensation income benefits. They will have to show a diligent and sincere effort to find employment elsewhere. If they can prove that after this search, they have not been able to find work due to their injury, they may be eligible for some benefits. Keep in mind that the search for employment must be at an employer that is hiring, work that the employee is otherwise qualified to do, and the injured worker may need to disclose their restrictions to the potential employer to confirm the job is within those restrictions.
If you find yourself worried about your job after an injury, a qualified workers’ compensation attorney can help defend your rights and ensure that you get fair treatment.