When you get injured or sick on the job, unless you are permanently and totally disabled, at some point you will be ready to return to work. When you are, you have clear legal rights under New Jersey law. As an employee, understanding your rights is important. If you believe that your employer has violated your rights, you should consult with an attorney right away.
Your Employer Cannot Terminate Your Employment Because You Filed for Workers’ Compensation
When you are ready to return to work, your employer is prohibited from denying you employment based on the fact that you filed for workers’ compensation. As an employee in New Jersey, it is your statutory right to file for workers’ compensation benefits if you get injured on the job, and your employer cannot terminate your employment because you chose to exercise your legal rights. This is known as retaliation, and it is illegal under New Jersey law.
In many cases, employees who keep in contact with their employers and who plan ahead for their return to work will be able to resume their previous position. However, this is not guaranteed. While your employer cannot retaliate against you because you filed for workers’ comp, it can terminate your employment while you are receiving benefits for legitimate business reasons. Examples of legitimate reasons for not offering reinstatement to employees who were out on workers’ comp include:
- The company downsized or restructured and your former position no longer exists;
- The company backfilled your position while you were out on workers’ comp; and,
- Your employment was terminated “for cause” for reasons unrelated to your claim for workers’ compensation benefits.
In some circumstances, employers will use apparent legitimate justifications for termination as pretexts for retaliating against employees who have filed claims for benefits. As a result, if you are denied reinstatement for any reason, you should discuss your situation with an attorney.
Your Employer Cannot Discriminate against You on the Basis of a Disability
Your employer also cannot deny you reinstatement on the basis that you are now suffering from a disability. The one major exception to this is that companies are not required to offer employment to individuals whose disabilities prevent them from performing essential responsibilities of the job. In most cases, employers must offer “reasonable accommodations,” and their failure to do so will constitute a violation of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) – and potentially other laws as well.
Depending on the circumstances involved, examples of reasonable accommodations that employers may be required to offer to disabled employees include:
- Adjusting work hours or schedules
- Allowing for the use of a service animal
- Installing access ramps and making other necessary accessibility accommodations
- Modifying workspaces or restrooms
- Offering telework capabilities
- Providing necessary computer software and hardware
- Providing written materials in braille or large print, or offering audio versions
- Reassignment to a different job position or to light duty
Employers do not have to provide reasonable accommodations to disabled employees when doing so would cause an “undue hardship” to the employer. This is measured on a case-by-case basis and takes the employer’s size, financial resources, and various other factors into consideration. If your employer denies you a necessary accommodation on the grounds that it is too expensive, you should speak with an attorney to find out if you have grounds to challenge the denial.
You Can Seek Additional Workers’ Compensation Benefits if You Get Reinjured at Work
Finally, filing for workers’ compensation benefits is not a one-and-done proposition. If you return to work and you get injured again – either by reaggravating your prior injury or by being involved in another job-related accident – you can seek additional workers’ compensation benefits.
You can also file for workers’ compensation again if your return to work leads to a WEAR and TEAR injury. In many cases, workers who suffer traumatic injuries will experience lingering effects that worsen over time. If you experience a chronic condition due to the impacts of repetitive stress, you have every right to file a second claim under your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance policy.
Contact Petro Cohen for More Information
If you have been denied employment after returning from workers’ comp, if you need reasonable accommodations due to a disability, or if you have any other concerns about your legal rights for a workplace injury, we encourage you to schedule an appointment with one of our local workers’ comp attorneys.
Petro Cohen has been consistently recognized as one of New Jersey’s leading firms in the area of workers’ compensation. Since 2011, the firm has been named among Best Law Firms in America® in Atlantic City for Workers’ Compensation. Frank Petro, who heads the firm’s Workers’ Compensation Department, has received the highest rating (AV) from Martindale-Hubbell, the world’s foremost authority on law firm credentials (the AV rating is only for lawyers considered the top in their field). Since 1995, Frank Petro has been named every year on the Best Lawyers in America® list for Workers’ Compensation. Additionally, Frank Petro has been named to the NJ Super Lawyers® list since 2005 in the practice area of workers’ compensation. He is also certified by the New Jersey Supreme Court as a Workers’ Compensation Law Attorney, the highest specialty certification available to workers’ compensation attorneys in New Jersey, and has held this certification since its inception in 1998.
The hard working attorneys at Petro Cohen take great pride in helping hard working people just like you. The workers’ comp team of lawyers has over 100 years of combined experience, having successfully handled tens of thousands of litigated workers’ compensation cases throughout New Jersey. This experience and winning track record means you have a law firm that make workers’ compensation work for you.
To schedule a free and confidential consultation at your convenience with a Petro Cohen workers’ comp attorney, call us directly at 888-675-7607 or tell us how to reach you online today.