Does My Employer Have to Offer Me a Job After I Am Injured?

Can an employer fire an injured worker?

As a Portland workers' compensation attorney, I get this question a lot in a variety of different forms. 

First, there is Oregon discrimination law which protects workers' who file workers' compensation claims from being retaliated against.  So, no, you cannot be fired for filing a workers' compensation claim in Oregon.

Second, there is the issue of whether an employer has to keep your job for you after a work injury.  There a multiple scenarios that come up in work injury claims.  For most Oregon companies, the employer must hold your job for you for up to three years after a work injury.  For very small employers, they must hold the job for a year.  This means you are entitled to return to your job after you recover from a workers' compensation injury.

However, there is a large exception to this rule.  If you are not released by your doctor to the job at injury (i.e., you cannot physically return to the job you held when you were injured), the employer can terminate you.  This does entitle an injured worker to other benefits such as potential vocational retraining and work disability.  These benefits are meant to make up for the fact you are not able to get your job back after you are injured.

The employer may offer you permanent modified work, but they are not obligated to.  In my experience, employers are rarely able to offer permanent modified work.  So, the answer is that an employer can sometimes fire an injured worker, but only due to them not being able to return to work once the claim is complete.  This does not mean an employer can fire a work who is on light duty or off work due to the injury.  It only means the employer does not have to offer a modified job once the worker is done treating.

I am also often asked if the employer's refusal to offer permanent modified work violates the Federal laws requiring disability accommodation (the Americans with Disabilities Act).  No.  Injured workers' get benefits for their work injuries and any related permanent impairment, but the employer does not have to accommodate any permanent work impairment.

If you have more questions about returning to work, or about your workers' compensation claim in general, please feel free to give me a call at 503-975-5535.  I am a practicing workers' compensation attorney in the Portland area.


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