When can Arizona workers resume light duty work after a job-related injury?
Most people are not fully aware of Arizona workers’ compensation laws until they find themselves injured and out of a job. If you are injured while on the job, you are entitled to apply for workers’ compensation. This is true whether an accident in the workplace is the fault of your employer or partially your own fault.
“No-fault” workplace accident compensation
The state of Arizona has a system where workers may apply for workers’ compensation no matter who is at fault for their workplace accident. This means that even if you were partially responsible for your own injury, you are eligible for benefits because it was work-related.
You must report your accident to your employer immediately after it occurs. Failing to report a workplace injury immediately might result in your employer’s insurance company denying your benefits for medical bills, ongoing therapy needs and future expenses related to your well being.
Can you return to work?
You will need to have a physician provide documents that clear you to return to work. However, your employer isn’t required to reinstate you on the job within a given time period, according to Arizona workers’ compensation return to work rules.
Most employers do wish to return an employee to the workplace, if only to lessen the amount of replacement wages. However, there are times when an employer doesn’t want an employee back on the job and finds justification in delaying their return.
Employers need to be aware that the Arizona workers’ compensation light-duty rules don’t imply that the worker is fully recovered, only that they have the ability to return to work on a lighter basis.
Light-duty work restrictions
Problems may occur when a physician clears their patient for light-duty status. This could mean you are given a lighter workload on the job. It might also indicate fewer hours per day or week.
Arizona workers should receive notice from the insurance company handling their claim of this change. Arizona state law doesn’t hold employers under a legal obligation to accommodate an employee returning on a light-duty basis. In other words, your employer doesn’t have to transform your former position or create an entirely new position to fit your new light-duty status.
If your employer is unable or unwilling to accommodate your light-duty status, you “must engage in a good faith effort to find suitable work.” Efforts to seek employment should be reported (in a timely manner) to the workers’ compensation insurance company. The worker must also report any earned income as well as any unemployment benefits received. However, since they are earning some form of wages, their compensation benefit will be suitably reduced.
Arizona workers’ compensation laws
At no time should your employer penalize you for seeking your rights or accepting Arizona workers’ compensation benefits. These benefits are available to workers after an injury and no one should be threatened or denied their rights. If this has occurred, the situation should be reported to the Arizona Industrial Commission.
In many cases, your job might not be protected due to the amount of time you’ve been on leave. If you believe that this may be why your employer is delaying your return, speak with your employer’s Human Resources department. You may be additionally protected by the Family Medical Leave Act.
If you took a protected leave of absence during your recovery, it is presumed that your job will be returned to you upon your return. If it isn’t and you have been terminated from your position, there needs to be an investigation to ascertain why you were terminated. If you believe that you were wrongfully terminated, contact an attorney near you who is well-versed in workers’ compensation cases to help you assert your rights.
Questions and answers about compensation for a job-related accident, injury or illness in Arizona
Consult an experienced workers’ compensation law firm near you
If it wasn’t hard enough to be injured on the job, making sense of state workers’ compensation rules and regulations makes it doubly so. In addition to your accident, there’s the stress caused by your injuries and the various financial losses that follow. It’s no wonder that many people become overwhelmed and feel unprepared to tackle it all.
Arizona workers who find themselves in this situation are wise to contact the Law Offices of Robert E. Wisniewski. Our attorneys are not just Certified Specialists in workers’ compensation law by the State Bar of Arizona, but they share a wealth of experience in the legal field. In addition, their offices are well-prepared to assist workers in filing state documentation and following up so that no compensation benefits go unclaimed.