No one comes to work in the morning with the intention of ending up severely injured or sickened. However, people do end up hurt in the course of completing job duties every day in California. That's why workers' compensation insurance exists. It protects those who work for a living from incurring massive medical debt or becoming indigent as the result of a debilitating workplace injury.
Sometimes, those injuries are so severe that a worker simply cannot return to work, perhaps permanently. Spinal cord injuries and traumatic brain injuries are examples of work injuries that can result in permanent disability. However, sometimes injuries improve over time, allowing workers to return to their previous positions. In these situations, employers are supposed to make reasonable accommodations for employees.
Accommodations can help people return to work sooner
For those with repetitive motion injuries, broken bones or other conditions that limit motion, strength or performance, accommodations by an employer can make a major difference. Providing a worker with a place to sit for ten minutes each hour, for example, could allow that worker to return to work while still healing. Creating a more diverse workflow for someone with a repetitive motion injury could allow the company to retain the employee without worsening the injury.
Different conditions, injuries and jobs will require different accommodations. Instead of explicitly outlining what kinds of accommodations an employee may request, the government simply requires that employers make reasonable accommodations to those with disabilities.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission does advise that providing additional breaks or leave, changing work processes, providing assistive technology, changing a work station, allowing for closer parking or working to reassign the employee internally are all reasonable requests.
Sometimes, employers penalize those who get hurt at work
After filing a workers' compensation claim, you may look forward to returning to work. Convalescent leave is often a very dull time, with limited stimulation and reduced mobility. Workers may desperately want to return to work just to escape the monotony of being home all day. Sadly, far too many employers refuse to accommodate workers.
Although federal law requires that employers provide reasonable accommodation that doesn't result in undue hardship to the business and makes retaliation against injured workers illegal, employers still discriminate. Workers may find that their employer may pay lip service to accommodations but will refuse to actually implement any changes that can make work less painful.
Other workers may find that they get demoted, receive few shifts or receive repeated reprimands for slower or worse performance, even if it is the result of a workplace injury. For those experiencing retaliation for reporting an injury, it may be necessary to pursue a discrimination claim against the company.