Health always comes first. That is why the law in New York allows you to take time off work while you recover from your work-related injuries. Once you heal, your employer may ask you to return to work. However, your boss is not the one who decides when you are capable of working again. Your doctor will make that decision, and your employer cannot go against their indications.
Worker’s Compensation in New York
The worker’s compensation law in New York clearly states that a worker must only return to work when their health care provider has cleared them to do so. If your doctor says you can’t go to work yet, your employer cannot force you to return. If you go back to work before recovering, your injury or sickness could get worse. Besides, returning to work would mean that your wage loss benefits will stop, and you wouldn’t be able to ask for these benefits again if you need additional time off to heal in the future. However, you must know that your health benefits are for life, and you can continue receiving them even if you get back to work.
Return to work
You may not be able to perform the same duties as before, but that doesn’t mean that there is nothing else you can do for your employer. Sometimes, doctors can allow a patient to go back to work with some restrictions on the activities they can do. Ask your doctor about this. If you can get back to work with some restrictions, you must let your employer know about this as soon as possible. Maybe you won’t do the same thing as before, but your employer can find other less physically demanding activities for you to do while you fully recover.
If your boss puts you on light duty, they may not pay you the same salary they gave you for your previous position. You may earn less than before, but you have the right to ask for the reduced earning benefits if this happens. The reduced earning benefits will pay up to two-thirds of the difference in your wages before and after your injury.
Keeping your position
The law does not require employers to hold their injured worker’s positions. So if you can’t get back to work, not even on light duty, then the only way you could assure your boss holds the job for you is by asking for medical leave. Once you take medical leave, your boss must provide you 12 weeks of unpaid leave and preserve your job status and position while you heal.
If you can’t take medical leave, keep in touch with your employer and ask them constantly about your job to show them that you are interested and not using your injury as an excuse to be absent from work. However, if your boss replaces you, you must know that not everything will be lost. In this case, you could ask the New York State Department of Labor for unemployment insurance, which will help with your expenses until you find a new job.
Your right as a worker
Your employer cannot force you to go back to work if your doctor believes you are not ready. If they are pressuring you in any way, tell them about the doctor’s decision. You mustn’t return to work if you still feel unable to, as doing so could only worsen your condition. Nothing is more important than your health, not even your employer’s requests.