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Protecting the Rights of Injured Workers

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Can employers terminate injured workers out on medical leave?

Financial security is incredibly important. For many Colorado residents, it’s not just individuals who rely on a reliable income, but entire families often depend on financial stability. As such, if an individual is rendered unable to work or is terminated from employment, problems could snowball.

When a person is injured on the job and left unable to work, job security may become incredibly important. At a certain point, injured employees might wonder what legal obligations their employer has to retain employment while they are recovering on medical leave. Unfortunately, the answer may not be clear cut in a time when uncertainty has the ability to rule the day.

Some answers may be found by taking a look at the Family and Medical Leave Act, an important federal employment law. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, employers are obligated to protect employment for 12 weeks. Although workers are still entitled to keep their jobs during this time, full wages aren’t a guarantee.

This is the point where workers’ compensation benefits can provide much needed financial support. After all, several weeks without any income could cause financial turmoil.

Furthermore, the law only puts this employment protection into effect once an employee has been at work for at least one year or at least 1,250 hours in the previous 12 months. If this condition isn’t met, then employers may not provide job protection. After all, employers may want to eliminate what they see as a financial liability, as opposed to a valued employee.

After the 12 weeks of leave is up, what happens next? This, of course, is a bit of a gray area. As a result, employees may need to be vigilant and ensure that they’ve explored all available means of compensation, knowing that the future is less than certain.

Certainly, the interaction between employment laws and workers’ compensation laws can be difficult to sort through. As such, this blog post shouldn’t be considered a universal answer for every worker’s case. Instead, it may be most helpful to work alongside an experienced attorney to establish a complete inventory of options.

Source: U.S. Department of Labor, “Family & Medical Leave,” accessed June 24, 2014

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