Get Them Back to Work
Over the years, I have experienced many workman’s comp injury claims—some valid, some not so valid. As the employer and owner of the workers comp policy, you need to keep in touch with the employee and the workers comp case worker to get the employee back to work.
The employer has certain rights. For example, an employee of mine has been off on workers comp for 3 months (back injury). His doctor of choice is his family physician who continues to write “no return to work" notices so the employee continues to receive benefits.
Although you can do this sooner than 3 months (even 1 month), I called the workers comp case worker who informed me that my employee’s medical tests and treatments requested by his family physician were denied because the worker’s comp doctors felt there was no real injury after looking at MRIs and x-rays.
I requested the employee be seen by a doctor other than his family physician, which was done and the employee was told there was no injury that would keep him from performing his job duties and he could indeed return to work.
The employee disagreed with the decision and refused to come back to work. His workers comp benefits, however, were canceled by the carrier.
Here, this scenario worked out for me as I was able to state there was work available to the employee and he was cleared to work, but refused, so I terminated his position.
To avoid the pitfalls of firing employees while on workers comp, keep communication lines open with both the employee and the workers comp case worker. Ask to receive weekly updates—insist on this. If you have a poor employee you don’t want back, avoid lawsuits by taking them back and then implementing the proper employee documentation.
Finally, don’t make it known that if anyone on your staff files or attempts to file a workers comp claim, the result will be termination. Not only is this illegal, you’ll lose in court if the employee finds a lawyer to take the case. Placing this message out to employees will lower trust, respect, productivity, and morale.
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