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Does an employer have to support you after an injury on the job?

Whether you work in the manufacturing, retail, medical or transportation sector, getting hurt at work can quickly cause a lot of issues. You might need to leave in the middle of your shift to get medical care, and if your injury is serious enough, you may not be able to keep doing the same job until you heal.

You probably know that you can ask for workers’ compensation benefits to cover your medical costs and at least some of the wages you won’t earn. Still, workers’ compensation leaves you with a gap in your budget that can be very hard to handle.

In a best-case situation, your employer could help you stay on the job after an injury at work. Do they have any obligation to help you stay or return to work quickly?

Yes, employers typically have to accommodate workers with medical needs

Whether you need light-duty job tasks because you can’t lift or carry heavy weights or you need to be able to sit instead of stand because of an injury to your leg or a joint, asking your employer to work with you is a reasonable request.

Federal employment laws and disability protections require that employers fulfill appropriate and reasonable accommodation requests from their workers. Asking for slightly different job responsibilities, assistive technology or even access to workspaces through the installation of a ramp are all appropriate and reasonable requests someone could make of their employer.

Companies may be able to arrange for a worker to do different tasks than usual or even work remotely. They can provide supports like new equipment that make it easier for someone to keep doing the same job.

What if your employer won’t cooperate with you?

If your employer is a very small or highly specialized company, it may not be possible for them to work with you until you recover. They may not have enough tasks to fill your day or the ability to absorb extra costs. In cases where accommodations would unreasonably affect the company, a worker may have no choice except to stay home until they recuperate.

However, in situations where an employer refuses to accommodate despite being able to or where they otherwise punish or retaliate against a worker for claiming workers’ compensation benefits, requesting accommodations or reporting an injury, the affected worker may need to consider taking legal action.

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