Returning to Work from an Injury

When do you allow an employee to return to work after an injury? Employers sometimes think that employees need to be 100% healed before they resume their duties. However, this blanket policy can be unlawful.

The Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) prohibits discrimination against employees with disabilities and mandates employers to provide reasonable accommodations that can permit qualified employees with disabilities to perform their jobs.

Therefore, employers should assess whether the employee can perform the essential functions of the job with or without reasonable accommodation. If an employee gets injured, the Company should initiate the interactive process immediately and attempt to make reasonable accommodations so the employee can return to work safely and comfortably if possible.

When participating in the interactive process, employers should review the employee’s job description and talk to the employee’s direct manager about the essential functions of the job and any physical requirements that are necessary. Having a complete job description that outlines what the essential responsibilities are and percentage of time they are performed is also extremely helpful. Describing physical requirements that are necessary such as lifting 25+ lbs, hearing, walking, or driving requirements helps determine what reasonable accommodations should be made in the role. Another option is to return the employee back to a similar role temporarily that is better suited for the employee if they have restrictions that can’t be accommodated easily.