You were injured at work, and now you’re unable to perform your job. The company has given me a desk job instead but to you, it feels like they’re trying to get you to leave. What can you do? You should not leave until consulting with an experienced employment law attorney to make sure you are not waiving any workers’ compensation rights that you may deserve.
Beware that once you return to work in any capacity with your employer, the employer may still fire you if they say you engaged in misconduct of any kind or, if you are an at-will employee, they do not need a reason to fire you at all. It is always in the employer’s interest and their insurance carrier’s interest to get you off the property after you’ve been injured. As an injured worker, you are an added risk to them. Beware that typically, they will be looking for reasons to fire you. They may make attempts to irritate you and bait you into doing or saying something that will get you fired.
Why did they put me at a desk job?
Sometimes an employer will create a new position for an injured worker in order to avoid paying for missed work due to the injury. If you are still under treatment, and your doctor feels that your temporary job is therapeutically beneficial for you, even if there was no such job before you were injured, and even if there is no such job available in the open job market, you will still have to do it.
Many employers have rehabilitation programs, sometimes known as a temporary alternative job. These programs are basically designed to get you into some type of job with the employer to accommodate your work restrictions. Assuming your doctor has approved the modified duty that your employer has offered you, you could be charged with an unjustifiable refusal to engage in suitable employment and be cut off from all benefits if you refuse to engage in that program.
What is “suitable employment”?
If you have reached maximum medical improvement, and your doctor has released you with permanent restrictions, then the job must be “suitable employment.” Under North Carolina law, a “suitable” job consists of a job that you are capable of performing considering your physical and mental limitations, vocational skills, education and experience, and whether it is located around a 50-mile radius of your residence. No one factor is considered exclusively in determining suitable employment.