June Congruity Q&A: Discipline | Workers’ Comp.

Question:

We received notification from our workers' compensation claims adjuster that an employee who is on workers' compensation leave has been released to return to work today. This employee has not been in contact with the company since her leave, did not notify us that she was released to return to work, and did not report to work today. Can we apply the same disciplinary actions to her as we do

for other employees in a no call/no show situation, or does she have special protection because she has been under a workers' compensation claim?

Answer:

Although you must make every attempt to bring the employee back to work when released to return to work following a job-related injury or illness, you maintain the right to apply disciplinary action to employees who do not follow company policy. Prior to taking any negative disciplinary action, however, you should review your company’s communications with the employee at the beginning of the leave to ensure that she understood she was required to keep you informed regarding her status. She may have thought that the workers’ compensation carrier would be communicating with you, and she may have been waiting to hear from you regarding her return to work status.

If that's not the case, and you have attempted to contact her via phone and email and have heard nothing back from her, then check her contact information and send a letter to the employee’s home address. The letter should state that you have been notified of her release to return to work and she will need to either return to work or contact you with a valid medical reason for extending her leave to avoid disciplinary action. Send this letter via certified mail with signature required so you have confirmation that the correspondence has been received. The letter should clarify your company’s policy regarding contacting her supervisor when she will not be reporting to work and the potential repercussions for not following the policy.

Continue to work with the claims adjustor and the employee to bring the employee back to work. If you have reached the point of considering terminating her employment, consult with legal counsel to mitigate the legal risks of terminating an employee while on medical leave under the Americans with Disabilities Act and your state's workers’ compensation laws; or contact the professionals at Congruity HR - 844.247.4100.