One issue that consistently trips up employers is the interplay of laws for an employee with work-related medical issues. This is sometimes referred to as the Bermuda Triangle of workers’ compensation, ADA/FEHA (disability), and FMLA/CFRA.
Quite often an employee is injured, a workers’ compensation claim is opened, and the employer somehow forgets the other two prongs of the triangle. For example, the time off is not designated as FMLA/CFRA, with the rights that go along with it. Or the duty to engage in the interactive process and reasonably accommodate under the ADA/FEHA is somehow forgotten when the employee returns to work with restrictions.
The reality is that many legal issues start with a workers’ compensation injury, and if those claims are handled proactively, then related civil claims arising from disability can be avoided.
Here are some tips for handling those workers’ compensation claims:
- First, be proactive when the claim comes in. Investigate what happened. Make sure witnesses provide statements with sufficient detail. Preserve security film and video. Document the extent of injuries (or the lack thereof).
- Second, get all of that information to your workers’ compensation carrier promptly so they can properly evaluate the claim. If the carrier isn’t responsive, follow-up.
- Third, if you have a light duty program, make sure it is only for a limited time (such as 90 days). Otherwise you risk creating a new job for someone, and no incentive to get better.
- And finally, don’t forget about the interactive process. If the claim is going to end with a Compromise & Release in the workers’ compensation case, then ask your carrier to negotiate for a resignation. And if the employee comes back to work and is not fully recovered, make sure any restrictions are documented and accommodated.
And of course, make sure the employee is not retaliated against for filing the claim.
Be sure to remember all three sides to any work-related injury so you can avoid getting lost in the Bermuda Triangle!