Employment Termination and My Workers Comp Benefits

If you receive workers compensation in Nevada, you must perform light duty work as provided by your employer or you risk termination of employment and potential loss of some of your benefits. Your doctor determines your restricted job duties. Your employer must make accommodations for any physical limitations and restrictions imposed by your physician. However, you must remain at your place of employment and perform your job duties to the best of your abilities because your employer may terminate you for non-performance of these light duties. If you are fired from your job, you may lose some or all of your compensation.

Termination of Employment for Making a Claim

According to the Nevada Supreme Court, an injured employee cannot be fired from a job simply for filing a workers compensation benefits claim, or the employee is legally eligible to sue the employer. However, the burden of proof lies with the injured worker, who must prove that the termination of employment was only because of filing a claim and not for any other reason. Employers typically understand the law and provide alternative reasons for firing employees, including non-compliance of light duty responsibilities.

Refusing to Work Temporary Light Duty Job

Refusal to perform restricted job duties can result in the loss of your job and possibly your Nevada workers compensation benefits. When you refuse to perform your restricted job duties, this gives your employer a legitimate reason to fire you. Mindless job duties or inconvenience as a result of your restricted job responsibilities is not a valid reason to skip your scheduled employment and may result in disciplinary actions or loss of employment unless you have acquired sick days, vacation days, personal time off, or valid FMLA protection.

Common Reasons Employers Terminate while a Worker is on Light Duty

An employer has several legitimate reasons to terminate your employment while you are on restricted duty, so it is important to give your best effort in the performance of your job duties. Your employer can terminate your employment if you refuse to perform your restricted job duties, frequently or repeatedly call in sick, show up to the job late, or skip out on your job completely.

Permanent versus Temporary Restricted Job Duties

Nevada law only prevents permanent restricted job duties from being demeaning or causing ridicule or embarrassment. There are no such legal protections for temporary job duty restrictions. Because of this, it may seem that some employers use restricted job duties as a form of punishment for injured employees who file for Nevada workers compensation benefits. However, it is important to remember that the job restrictions are generally temporary and you should be able to return to your normal job duties once your doctor allows.

Insurers May Deny Claim Due to Employment Termination

If you lose your job because you refuse to perform the light duty job requirements as provided by your employer, your insurer might also deny your workers compensation benefits within 70 days of hearing about the termination of employment. Insurers will frequently deny compensation for any reason for loss of employment under the assumption that the injured employee will not appeal the case. However, the law only permits the legitimate denial of benefits if you are fired for gross misconduct. If you were fired for any other reason and denied compensation, it is important that you appeal the decision in a timely manner.

Injuries that Prevent Getting to Work

When determining the appropriate job restrictions, the employer uses the physician’s progress report to decide what job duties can and cannot be performed by the employee. Both the employer and the injured employee must follow whatever restrictions are listed in the doctor’s progress report. If certain restrictions are not listed, the employer will assume that the employee can perform the restricted job duties for an entire shift. If the doctor determines that you are able to return to your job with or without certain limitations, then you can be fired for not showing up at your scheduled job shift.

The Doctor and Your Light Duty Work Duties

It is important that you explain to the treating physician what type of job duties are expected of you at your place of employment during your shift. If restrictions are in place that you are still unable to perform, continue to perform the job duties to the best of your ability until you can speak with the physician about creating restrictions that make sense for your condition and your place of employment or adding additional restrictions so that you may continue to remain employed.

Filing a Workers Compensation Claim after Being Terminated

If you are injured on the job, it is always best to file a claim for workers compensation while you are still employed. If you wait to file a claim until after you are fired, it will be assumed that the claim is invalid. While NRS 616C.150 states that arguments can be made that such an injury did not arise out of the course of employment, the Nevada Supreme Court interpretation of NRS 616C.150(2) places the burden of proof on the injured employee to prove that the injury did in fact occur on the job and did not occur at any point after termination of employment.

Amendments to NRS 616C.232

Amendments to NRS 616C.232 made changes to the availability of temporary total disability benefits in case the injured employee was fired during the course of restricted duty after an injury. In the past, it was difficult to obtain compensation for injuries if the employee was terminated for any reason during the restricted duties period. A.B. 281 Section 5 provides that only temporary total disability benefits may be denied in these cases. However, a more recent amendment in S.B. 195 Section 4 was seen in 2009 to provide that the temporary total disability benefits may not be denied unless the injured employee is fired for gross misconduct.

Attorney Assistance for Employees facing Light Duty Work Requirements

If you do not already have an attorney and are having an issue with your restricted job duties, Morris/Anderson Law can help. It is important to set up an appointment with an attorney to discuss your case and learn about your options, rights, and responsibilities regarding continued employment and workers compensation law in Nevada. If you are having trouble performing your restricted duties while waiting for your attorney consultation, continue to perform your job duties the best that you can and make an appointment to see your physician immediately to have more restrictions put into place.

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