After getting their workers' compensation benefits started, most injured workers are most concerned about getting back to work.
Often the employer will offer the injured worker a return to work some time after the worker's medical treatment has started. Here is a short list of what I think are the top things workers should consider if they are offered a return to work:
- The work offered must not violate the physical and/or work restrictions from the worker's doctor or doctors. If the work restrictions limit the injured to lifting no more than 10 lbs. at a time, then maximum lifting for the offered work must be 10 lbs. or less. The same goes for other restrictions limiting standing, walking, climbing ladders, etc.
- If the worker is asked (or ordered) to violate his or her work restrictions, he or she must raise that with his or her supervisor. If the supervisor is not willing to help, then the worker must go up the chain of command.
- Violations of work restrictions could create an employment claim such as retaliation and/or discrimination. You should contact me if you think you might have such a claim.
- If your weekly gross pay is less than the weekly gross pay before the work injury, then the worker is probably entitled to a money benefit which is usually two thirds of the difference between the two gross wages. If you're not getting and you think you should, you must raise it with your supervisor. If that doesn't work, you need to go up the chain of command or to the part of the company that deals with workers' compensation claims, often the human resources department.
- Unfortunately, the New Mexico Workers' Compensation Act allows employers to penalize an injured worker for quitting or being fire after being returned to work after an injury. The penalty usually involves losing all or part of your workers' compensation money benefits. This can be a complicated situation and, if it happens, can be financially devastating for the injured worker and the injured worker's family. To penalize the injured worker the employer must prove that the worker quit "unreasonably" or was fired for "misconduct". The New Mexico Workers' Compensation Act does not define these terms. So, it can be a very difficult situation to resolve without a lawyer.
- Usually a return to work benefits the injured worker and the employer. So, if you are offered a return to work, you should make the best of it.
There are other things to consider, but these are the top things in my opinion.
If you have any questions, please call me at 505 292-8836 or Email me at