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Returning to Work After an Injury

After a workplace injury, an employee may be eager to return to work, unable to return to a prior job or workplace conditions, or completely unable to work. In California, whether you can return to work — and when — may be determined by several people:

  • Treating doctors
  • Managers and employers
  • Claims administrator handling your workers’ compensation claim

Together, these people consider a number of factors:

  • Work performed before the injury
  • Medical conditions and types of work you can perform now
  • Other jobs your employer has available

Ideally, the parties work together with you to understand your injury and your options. A workers’ compensation attorney can help facilitate communication between these parties and help you return to work with duties you are able to perform.

When a doctor decides your injuries prevent you from returning to work, you cannot be forced to return to your job. However, in many cases, you may be able to return to work with accommodations. If a treating doctor approves your return to work, he or she must specify any work restrictions in order to prevent further injury, including any limits on job tasks, as well as any changes that need to be made to your work schedule, assignments, equipment and conditions.

Your employer may offer you work as long as it meets your doctor’s restrictions, lasts at least 12 months and is a reasonable commute from where you lived when injured:

  • Regular work: Your prior job paying the same wages and benefits
  • Modified work: Your prior job with modifications at a minimum of 85 percent of your prior wages
  • Alternative work: A new job paid at a minimum of 85 percent of your prior wages

You have a limited time to respond to an offer than meets your work restrictions or you could lose your right to benefits. If your employer is unable to provide accommodations for your injuries, you are not required to return to work. If your employer does not offer you work, you may be eligible for other benefits.

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