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How Can Employers Accommodate a Work Injury?

man standing over stack of wood planksUnless you suffer a disability that leaves you permanently and totally disabled, you will likely be able to return to work at some point. However, you may have a permanent or temporary disability that leaves you unable to perform every aspect of your job, either in the short or long term.

If the treating doctor says the employee can return to work with restrictions, the employer must determine whether it can provide work that fits those restrictions. The employer may need to make some disability accommodations to allow the worker to return to his or her job.

Below, learn more about what California workers’ compensation law and the Americans with Disabilities Act has to say about making reasonable accommodations for injured workers who are returning to the job.

What is a Reasonable Accommodation?

Reasonable accommodation is a broad term that refers to reasonable changes or modifications that can be made to allow an employee to get back to work. For example, maybe the injured employee needs a chair with more lumbar support or changes to his or her desk to make it more ergonomic to prevent aggravation of carpal tunnel syndrome. Often, a reasonable accommodation is modifying existing equipment or obtaining other equipment to allow an employee to continue working.

Sometimes an employee needs a modified work schedule, such as a switch from full to part-time work. In other situations, employers may allow an employee more time to complete a task he or she used to be able to do more quickly. It may also be possible to assign some tasks to another worker or multiple workers.

However, an accommodation is not considered reasonable if providing it would cause an undue hardship for the employer. An undue hardship could be the cost of providing the accommodation, or the difficulty of making the necessary changes.

The accommodations you need will likely line up with your work restrictions recommended by your treating physician. Under workers’ compensation law, employers are required to ensure any work they assign fits those work restrictions. You are not required to accept an offer of work that does not comply with these restrictions.

Regular, Modified and Alternative Work

When your doctor says you can return to work, your employer may offer regular work, modified work or alternative work. Whatever offer you receive it must be an offer for at least 12 months of work that meets your doctor’s work restrictions.

Regular work is work for the same wages and benefits you received before your injury. Modified work means your old job with accommodations because of your disability. Modified work must pay a minimum of 85 percent of your old wages and benefits. Alternative work provides the same pay and benefits, but it is not the same as your old job.

Once an offer for work is made, you have 30 days to accept. After that, your employer is allowed to withdraw the offer.

If your employer refuses to offer you work because of your disability, even though you would be able to do the job with a reasonable accommodation, this could be considered a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

If the work offer does not comply with work restrictions, tell that your employer in writing. That will help you or your attorney challenge your employer’s work offer, particularly if the employer terminates your workers’ compensation benefits because of your refusal to accept the offer. Retaliation because an employee refuses a work offer that does not comply with work restrictions may violate the California Labor Code.

Did You Suffer an Injury at Work? Contact Berry, Smith & Bartell for a Free Consultation

Our Bakersfield workers’ compensation lawyers may be able to help you pursue workers’ compensation benefits to get you through this difficult time. We have several decades of combined experience and a proven track record of recovering compensation for work injury victims in California.

The consultation is free of charge and you are under no obligation to take legal action if we validate your claim. That means there is no risk in meeting with us to find out how we may be able to assist you. 

For a free case evaluation with Berry, Smith & Bartell, a Professional Law Corporation call 1-800-848-6288 today!

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