What does Essential Function mean?
Essential functions of a job are the basic tasks or job duties an injured employee must be able to perform without reasonable accommodation. After a work comp injury the injured worker may receive medical and temporary disability benefits. If a doctor has determined a worker has reached their maximum medical improvement (MMI) and they can return to work, they may no longer receive certain work comp benefits. The primary question, however, is whether they can return to their previous job and work, performing all of their essential functions, or whether they will have to find new work.
Injured employee cannot perform essential job functions
If you have been injured while performing your normal job duty and you have returned to your old job you may have a permanent disability from the injury which hinders your ability to work. Under work comp law, the employer is required to make "reasonable accommodations" for you to continue to work. They do not, however, have to make accommodations which preclude you from performing essential functions of your job. They do have to do the following:
Eliminate or delegate nonessential elements of the job to another employee
- Allow you to work a modified schedule, if possible
- Potentially assign you to a different position
- Make their facilities and workspace conducive and accessible to disabled workers
- Acquire, modify or adjust equipment or policies
- Provide qualified readers or interpreters, if needed
In some cases there will not be work available that you can perform with your current impairments or work restrictions. In some cases this may be justified by your employer's business realities; other times this could be because you requested workers' compensation benefits, which could be a violation of your state's workers' compensation laws. In other cases your employer may simply have refused to make reasonable accommodations for you, which could be a violation of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Talk to a lawyer if you have more questions about your ability to return to work after a work comp injury.