While you are on leave due to a workplace injury, one of your biggest worries may be returning to work. You could be stressed out about whether you will have a job once you recover. Unfortunately, this is a valid concern for many workers.
In Minnesota, your employment is “at will” unless you have an employment contract or collective bargaining agreement that says otherwise. This means that your employer can terminate your employment at any time without cause. However, state and federal law provide some protections for workers who are injured on the job.
First, federal employment law prohibits employers from refusing to put workers with disabilities back to work if the employers can accommodate the workers’ medical restrictions. If accommodating the restrictions would cause undue hardship, or there is simply no job the injured worker can perform, the employers may not have to hold a job. But if a worker can perform an open job at his company or can do his old job with some modifications, the employer should return him to work.
If you go on leave for your workplace injury or need to take periodic time off to recover, you may qualify for Family and Medical Leave under the federal FMLA laws. When you return from FMLA leave, your employer must give you back the same or a substantially similar position – even if you come back to work with no medical restrictions. Not everyone qualifies for FMLA, so check with your employer about this option.
Minnesota law provides an additional layer of protection to injured workers. Your employer cannot retaliate against you or fire you just because you reported a work injury or filed a workers’ compensation case. In addition, employers of more than 15 full-time employees cannot refuse to offer you continued employment without reasonable cause when they have available employment within your physical restrictions. For these types of legal violations, you can receive damages beyond just workers’ compensation benefits. The damages may include attorneys’ fees, punitive damages, and lost wages. (Minn. Statutes § 176.82.)
If you believe that your employer wrongfully denied you employment when you tried to return to work after an injury, you need legal advice. Look for a workers’ compensation attorney and ask that attorney about whether you need an employment law attorney too.
Need help getting workers’ compensation for your injury? Joe Osterbauer, Esq. and the Osterbauer Law Firm stand up for injured Minnesota workers’ rights. Joe’s 27 years of workers’ compensation experience and his team’s speedy service combine to get clients the results they need. To schedule a free consultation, visit Osterbauer Law Firm online or call Joe’s office at (612) 334-3434.