Workers’ compensation benefits are designed to keep an injured worker financially afloat with medical bill coverage and possibly income replacement until they can return to work. However, severe workplace injuries caused by on-the-job accidents can sometimes be permanent and prevent a worker from ever returning to their job as they knew it. For example, a stockroom worker who falls off a ladder and suffers a lifelong back injury could not be expected to keep hauling boxes and going up and down ladders because it would put them in pain and danger.
In California, when an injured worker cannot return to their previous role due to a job-related injury, they might be able to get vocational rehabilitation through workers’ compensation. Vocational rehab or retraining is a benefit that helps that worker get additional training or education to find gainful employment that accommodates their injuries or disabilities. The new job position can be in the same company as before or a different one if the previous employer is unable to accommodate them after making a reasonable effort.
How Do You Get Vocational Rehab?
Even for workers’ comp cases involving severe injuries, vocational rehabilitation is often not considered until far into the case. A medical provider will usually determine that the injured worker is unable to return to their previous job position after reaching their maximum medical improvement (MMI). In summary, a patient’s MMI is the point at which their health conditions cannot be reasonably expected to improve even if they had access to the best medical treatments and given countless hours to rest and heal.
Doctors who assess and diagnose people who have been injured in workplace accidents have the unique task of deciding if that MMI interferes with their job expectations. For workers who were not employed in a strenuous role or had a job in a sedentary position, like an office worker spending their shifts in a chair and within an air-conditioned room, determining if a workplace injury truly interferes with their job activities can be a little difficult depending on the injury they have suffered. Oftentimes, there will be a conflict between the medical provider and the employer and their insurance group.
Does Your Employer Have to Accommodate You?
Yes, employment laws require employers to try to accommodate a returning injured worker as best they can and within reason. They cannot simply say that you have been injured and, therefore, have been fired. If they do not make an attempt to find you a new role that accommodates your injuries, then that could be a whole different legal conflict.
On the other hand, at-will employment means that you can be terminated at any time for any reason that is not illegal. If there really is no way that your employer can find a new job position for you, then they might have no choice but to let you go. However, being terminated does not end your workers’ compensation benefits, which means you could still be eligible for vocational rehabilitation that helps you find employment elsewhere.
Have questions about whether or not you can get vocational rehab through workers’ compensation after a workplace accident in Santa Clarita? Call on the Law Offices of Wax & Wax! Our attorneys can help you understand your options as an injured worker and how to file a claim that pursues every type of workers’ comp benefit available to you. Contact us today to find out more.