Returning to Work After an Injury

What is required in San Diego after a workers' compensation claim

By Super Lawyers staff | Reviewed by Canaan Suitt, J.D. | Last updated on March 13, 2023

Use these links to jump to different sections:

Workers’ comp is mandatory in California. All employers are required to provide workers’ compensation insurance coverage to their employees.

If you are hurt on the job, workers’ comp allows you to claim compensation for medical bills and wage replacement. Beyond ensuring that injured employees are protected financially, California’s workers’ comp case lawyers are also designed to facilitate an employee’s safe and prompt return to the workplace.

In this article, you will find an overview of the laws that govern a return to work after an injury in San Diego.

Workers’ Compensation Law: Employers Cannot Retaliate Because of a Workers’ Comp Claim

Workers have a right to file a workers’ compensation claim for a work-related injury.

An employer cannot take any adverse action against an employee who files a claim. Under California Labor Code § 132a, it is illegal for an employer to retaliate against an employee who files for workers’ compensation benefits after a job-related accident.

Among other things, this means that you have the right to return to your previous position when you are physically capable of doing so. An employer cannot fire you, lay you off, or otherwise punish you simply because you decided to file for workers’ comp benefits. An employer has a duty to help to return to the workplace. 

The Standard: Return to Work Safely and Promptly

The California Department of Labor Industrial Relations (DIR) explains that “returning to work safely and promptly can help in your recovery.”

It is general policy in California that injured workers should return to the workplace as soon as they are medically capable of doing so. Who decides that an injured worker is ready to return to the job after a workplace injury? The answer is that it is a collaborative process involving:

  • The injured worker;
  • Their primary care physician;
  • The employer; and
  • The workers’ comp claim administrator.

It is useful for all parties to communicate openly with each other. You are ready to share information with your doctor and your employer about what type of work (if any) you are capable of doing. In some cases, an alternative form of light duty work may be offered on a temporary or permanent basis as you recover from your injury.

Resolving Disputes Over Return to Work: Qualified Medical Evaluation (QME)

There may be a dispute over whether or not an injured worker is truly medically capable of returning to the workplace.

In California, these types of matters are generally resolved after a Qualified Medical Evaluation (QME). With a QME, a neutral third-party doctor will examine the injured employee and make an assessment about the type of work that they can (and cannot) safely perform.

Contacting a Workers’ Compensation Lawyer

If you have any specific questions or concerns about your rights and responsibilities regarding returning to work after an on-the-job injury in California, reach out to an experienced San Diego workers’ compensation attorney for help with your case.

To learn more about this area of law, see our workers’ compensation overview.

What do I do next?

Enter your location below to get connected with a qualified attorney today.
Popular attorney searches: Employment Litigation Employment & Labor

Find top lawyers with confidence

The Super Lawyers patented selection process is peer influenced and research driven, selecting the top 5% of attorneys to the Super Lawyers lists each year. We know lawyers and make it easy to connect with them.

Find a lawyer near you