Recently, accidental injuries became the number three cause of death in the U.S. for the first time according to figures from the National Safety Council. In one year alone, fatalities from preventable injuries rose 10%. Americans are hurt every second on average, and someone loses their life every three minutes in our nation.
Preventable events include things like auto and truck accidents, drowning incidents, poisoning, falls, and workplace accidents. If you’ve been involved in an accident, your priority should be your health and well-being. But what if you have bills to pay and need to get back to work? When you should return to work after an accident depends on a variety of factors, but it might not be the best idea to rush back to your job if you’re hurt.
When Do You Have to Return to Work?
You don’t have to return to work after an injury but failing to do so at the proper time could put your job in jeopardy. Like nearly all states, Connecticut is an “employment-at-will” state, meaning an employer can generally terminate their relationship with an employee for any reason and at any time. But there are some exceptions.
If you have an employment contract or are part of a collective bargaining agreement, your employer isn’t supposed to fire you without cause. You also have protections for military service, jury duty, and certain other court appearances.
Assuming your injury is work-related and covered by workers’ compensation insurance, your employer is required to hold your job or something equivalent open as long as you are still trying to return to work.
But what if you were in a car accident or had a slip and fall at a neighbor’s house? Unfortunately, employers don’t owe you the same consideration, but you do have some options.
Time Off of Work for Non-Work-Related Injuries
As a general rule, you can’t demand that your employer do much for you after you’ve been injured, except what is required by law. The good news is that you do have some rights, and probably a few benefits, that you can use for time off after an injury that was not work-related.
Paid Sick and Vacation Leave
Many employees accrue paid sick and vacation leave, although this is not granted by law for private enterprises. Although you can’t demand it, you can ask to be allowed to take your sick and vacation leave while you recover from your injury.
Leave Under the Family Medical Leave Act
The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) gives injured or sick employees and immediate family members up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for a long list of covered conditions. After 12 weeks, you are supposed to get your same position back or one that is equivalent.
Work Under the Americans with Disabilities Act
You may be able to return to work only part-time or to light duty if you qualify under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). If your injury or illness qualifies, this requires that an employer transfer you to a position, if it is available, or make reasonable accommodations.
The Dangers of Returning to Work Too Quickly
When you’ve been seriously injured, it’s not always the best idea to return to work immediately. As an employee, you have value for your company, and you probably need the wages and benefits. But, heading back to work too soon might not be in the best interests of either you or your employer.
If you have a work-related injury, you can’t return to work until you have a medical release from your treating physician. If you are released to light duty, and your employer makes this available, you’ll need to return to your job, or you will forfeit your benefits.
When it comes to non-work-related injuries, you should likewise wait until a doctor clears you to return to work. If you go back to work too soon, there’s a chance that you’ll suffer an additional injury on the job.
Assuming a physician does release you to return to work, it’s always possible that you might not feel physically or emotionally ready. In this situation, you can request a second opinion before taking any action that could jeopardize your health or the outcome of a pending injury claim.
When It’s Time to Get Help with Your Injury
Knowing what to do and where to turn after an injury can be confusing when you are faced with physical and financial challenges. At the Dodd Law Firm, we advocate for the rights of accident injury victims throughout Connecticut.
Contact our office today at 203-272-1883 or message us online to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.