Case questions injured workers' return to employment

Workers' compensation cases are often complex. Various issues can be involved and the law that governs the issue can be difficult to navigate. Some of these complexities are currently highlighted with a case out of Florida. Although the case comes out of Florida, the issue is one that could apply in states throughout the country.

What is this case about? The case involves a police officer who worked during the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. The officer was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of his work during the tragic event. The officer's physicians state that due to his condition he is unable to continue work as a police officer.

Initially, the officer received workers' compensation benefits. He was then told to return to work.

Can the employer make the injured worker return to work? In this case, the officer was given a "limited-duty status." Instead of returning to his original job, he was given a job that had different requirements. Instead of working as an officer on the streets, he was expected to complete clerical work.

Can the worker fight this requirement? The officer is attempting to fight the assignment. He contends that his employer's requirement is contrary to the advice given by his doctors. According to a piece in the Orlando Sentinel, the officer may move forward with an order requesting a judge step in and prohibit interference with the worker's treatment.

Could a worker in California face a similar situation? Workers in California could face similar issues. A publication by the California Commission on Health and Safety and Workers' Compensation explains that in certain situations an employer may require the worker return to his or her job.

The publication also clarifies that employers may be required to adjust job expectations to aid an employee's return to work. This can include the removal of nonessential job functions. The employer must take the employee's work capacities and restrictions into consideration when attempting to make modifications.

What should a worker do if workers' comp benefits in California are denied? Workers who find themselves either facing a return to work order that goes against medical recommendations or who face an outright denial of workers' compensation benefits are wise to seek legal counsel. An attorney can review the denial and help build an appeal to better ensure you receive the benefits you deserve.

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