New York City Police Officer story is of upmost importance for all Safety Officers.  A Detective who sustained a work-related COVID-19 infection is in conflict with his department.  The department’s doctor has apparently forced him to try to return to work.  The Detective, however, claims that he is no longer able to drive and requires an oxygen tank.  His disease was reported so serious that he was hospitalized for eight days and told he had two to nine days to live.   He is involved in a lawsuit with respect to his return to work and that he is being forced to return to work.  Nypost.com  

This article will discuss the various issue of return to work.

What Is “Return to Work” and Why Is It So Important for Employers?

“Return to Work” is a term which is used with respect to an Injured Worker returning to work in some capacity.  In California, “Return to Work” can be in a full duty capacity, a modified duty capacity, i.e. can do regular job with a lifting limitation, and an alternative work capacity.  “Return To Work” is a means for an employer to cut-off the payment of temporary disability payments.  For certain law enforcement positions, these payments can be salary continuation or Labor Code Section 4850 time.

Who Determines Return to Work Status?

The determination of “Return to Work” status is controversial.  First, a doctor makes a determination concerning “return to work.”  This is using done by a medical note with a provision indicating “return to work.”  The note may include some limitation or restrictions, i.e. part-time hours, lifting  limitations, or sitting limitations. Second, the department makes a determination as to whether there can be an accommodation and that there is a position available.

“Return to Work” can be a source of controversy that there may be multiple medical opinions expressing different views as to work capacity and restrictions, i.e. a treating doctor, an examining doctor, and a department doctor.  Likewise, the Injured Worker may dispute the doctor’s opinion.  Further, there can be a dispute as to whether a modified or alternative position actually exists. Injured Workers have on occasion been return to an alleged modified position and been told to perform regular duties.

Within workers’ compensation, the issue with this controversy would be entitlement to temporary disability benefits.  Thus, the matter will be resolved by a Trier of Fact, a Workers’ Compensation Judge,

What If The Officer Can Never Return To Work Full Duty?

In the case of an Injured Worker not being able to return to work, the issue of disability retirement arises.   This is not a workers’ compensation issue.   It is a Retirement Board matter.

What if I Need Advice?

If you would like a free consultation regarding workers’ compensation, please contact the Law Offices of Edward J. Singer, a Professional Law Corporation. We have been helping people in Central and Southern California deal with their workers’ compensation cases for 27 years. Contact us today for more information.


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