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Can My Employer Refuse to Let Me Return to Work After Injury?

Employers generally cannot refuse your return to work if you have medical clearance. They must accommodate reasonable restrictions or provide valid reasons for refusal.


Returning to work after an injury can be challenging, especially if your employer is hesitant about your return. Understanding your rights and the legal implications in such situations is crucial. In Missouri, as in many other states, specific guidelines and protections ensure that injured workers are treated fairly.

Understanding Your Rights

Firstly, knowing that your employer cannot arbitrarily refuse to let you return to work after an injury is important. If your healthcare provider has cleared you to return to work, whether to your regular or light duty, your employer must accommodate this within reason. Here are some key points to consider:

  1. Medical Clearance: Your return to work primarily depends on medical clearance from your healthcare provider. This clearance may have certain restrictions or limitations based on your injury and recovery progress.
  2. Reasonable Accommodation: Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities. This could include modified duties, adjusted work hours, or even temporary reassignment to a different position that matches your capabilities during your recovery period.
  3. Workers’ Compensation Laws: Missouri’s workers’ compensation laws provide further protection for injured workers. If you have been injured on the job and receive workers’ compensation benefits, your employer must comply with the state’s regulations regarding your return to work.

When an Employer Can Refuse

While your employer generally cannot refuse your return to work without valid reasons, there are some circumstances where refusal might be justified:

  1. Inability to Accommodate Restrictions: If your employer can demonstrate that they cannot reasonably accommodate your medical restrictions without causing undue hardship to the business, they may be justified in refusing your return to your original position. However, they should explore all possible accommodations first.
  2. Safety Concerns: If returning to work poses a significant safety risk to you or your coworkers, your employer might have grounds to delay your return until it’s safe. This should be based on objective safety assessments and not subjective judgments.
  3. Lack of Medical Clearance: If you have not yet received medical clearance or your healthcare provider has not approved your return to work, your employer is within their rights to require you to stay off work until you are medically fit to return.

The Importance of Consulting an Attorney Early

One of the most crucial steps you can take after a workplace injury is to speak with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney as early in the process as possible. Here’s why this is so important:

  1. Understanding Your Rights: An attorney can help you understand your legal rights and obligations, ensuring that you are fully informed about your situation.
  2. Navigating Complex Legal Processes: Workers’ compensation laws and regulations can be complex. An attorney can guide you through the process, helping you complete necessary paperwork, meet deadlines, and avoid common pitfalls.
  3. Advocacy and Representation: If your employer is reluctant to accommodate your return to work, an attorney can advocate on your behalf, ensuring your rights are protected and you receive fair treatment.
  4. Resolving Disputes: If disputes arise regarding your return to work, medical clearance, or any accommodations, having an attorney on your side can be invaluable. If necessary, they can negotiate with your employer or represent you in legal proceedings.

What to Do If Your Employer Refuses

If you believe your employer is unjustly refusing to let you return to work, there are steps you can take:

  1. Document Everything: Keep detailed records of all communications with your employer regarding your injury and return to work. This includes emails, letters, and notes from meetings or phone calls.
  2. Consult an Attorney: An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can help you understand your rights and navigate the legal complexities. They can also represent you in disputes with your employer, ensuring that you receive fair treatment.
  3. Contact the Missouri Division of Workers’ Compensation: If you are facing issues related to workers’ compensation, you can contact the Missouri Division of Workers’ Compensation for assistance and to file a complaint if necessary.

Missouri Workers Compensation Lawyer

Navigating the return to work after an injury can be complex, especially if your employer is resistant. Understanding your rights and the legal framework surrounding workers’ compensation and disability accommodations is crucial. If you face any challenges, don’t hesitate to seek legal advice to ensure your rights are protected.

For further guidance and support, speak with an experienced Missouri workers’ compensation attorney at the Law Office of James M. Hoffmann. With over 30 years of experience in workers’ compensation cases, we can help you understand your rights and take the necessary steps to ensure a smooth return to work after an injury. Call us today for a consultation.

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Updated: June 6, 2024