Returning to work is a highly anticipated end-goal for almost any traumatic brain injury (TBI) survivor. It’s nearly impossible to predict whether or not you’ll have the same function and ability before your TBI, but you are entitled to return to work if your health permits it. Dealing with a TBI is challenging for both employers and employees, as your TBI will have major physical, psychological, and cognitive effects.
Returning to work after a medical leave for something like a traumatic brain injury comes with challenges, but it’s not impossible. TBI survivors can easily return to work after their doctor permits them as long as their employer is willing to make necessary adjustments.
This article will show you how to deal with your traumatic brain injury when you go back to work, and let you know what rights you legally have.
Returning To Work With A Traumatic Brain injury
It is possible for you to work with a traumatic brain injury. The most challenging part of dealing with a traumatic brain injury is that it has no physical manifestation. TBIs are the invisible injuries, which can make proving them incredibly difficult, and symptoms vary in every person.
After having an appropriate amount of time to recover from your TBI, your doctor will give you a return-to-work letter. Your return-to-work letter will have details on:
- The extent of your TBI
- New limitations and restrictions at work
- When you’re likely to return either part-time or full-time
- If you can return to your normal position or need modified work
This letter should also be given to your HR department within 24 hours of you receiving it. Be sure to check with your HR department to see if they’ve also received your doctor’s notice. The return-to-work process is very transitional, it’s unlikely that you’ll return full-time at full-capacity right away. Your health is what matters most and you should take all the time you need to recover from your injuries.
Ask your doctor about the new limitations you now face. For example, you may have to spend about a year refraining from lifting heavy objects. Make these things very clear with your doctor. If you don’t agree with something your doctor says in your release form, you can seek a second opinion.
Also Read: What To Expect From A Workers Comp Doctor
Speaking With Your Employer About Your Traumatic Brain Injury
A recent study showed that positive reinforcement and understanding from employers and coworkers increased a TBI surivor’s likelihood of success and potential. All but one participant in this study were open and honest with their employer about their ability. The one participant who neglected to mention his struggles with his TBI found more barriers at work, as his colleges were much less understanding.
The best way to have a smooth transition to work after a traumatic brain injury is to be open with your employer every step of the way. Once you receive your doctor’s release notice, work with your employer and HR team to devise a full Return-To-Work plan. This will allow you to go back over all your daily tasks, and pin-point some new challenges you may begin to face and some possible solutions, including:
- Returning to work gradually
- Working from home
- Shortened hours or more breaks throughout the day
- Lessing workload and adjusting expectations
- Taking on a different role suited to your needs
These modifications can be a part of what’s considered “transitional” work. This transitional period helps both you and your employer minimize any lost time from work, while ensuring you stay safe in your recovery. Being open and communicating with your team will grant you more support and make dealing with your traumatic brain injury much easier.
Changes Can You Legally Ask For
Even with a TBI, you still have the same rights as any other employee. You’re entitled to equal opportunity and should be free from harassment. This means your employer and coworkers cannot discriminate against you for any promotions, training, pay, social activities, or other employee benefits.
Your TBI may present you with new challenges and restrictions, but you still have the same rights as any other employee. You may need some new adjustments to accommodate your injuries. Speak with your employer about challenges you now face with your TBI. This may include:
- Physical limitations
- Visual problems
- Memory deficits
- Maintaining stamina and concentration
- Difficulty staying organized or meeting deadlines
- Problem-solving deficits
- Environment and stimulation issues
The key to returning to work after a traumatic brain injury is to always communicate. This keeps you and your employer on the same page, and will save you if you need to take legal action against your employer. Some common adjustments TBI survivors can ask for include:
- Using video and voice recordings to help with memory loss.
- Computer programs to help with concentration or vision issues.
- Reasonable accommodations to certain tasks or decreasing workload.
- Moving to another position better suited for your needs.
- Lessing hours or more frequent breaks.
- Changing equipment and devices.
- Providing interpreters or training in new languages.
- Rest leaves and longer time for tasks.
- Quiet spaces to prevent fatigue and overstimulation.
Employer Refusing Your Return To Work After Medical Leave?
Most people who suffer from traumatic brain injuries are of working age. Building a career while you’re young is incredibly important, and you shouldn’t have to put your career on hold longer than it already has to. Traumatic brain injuries are not the same as a mental illness or intellectual disability. Despite having a TBI, many survivors can still work.
If your employer is refusing to let you return to work or fires you while you’re on medical leave, call a lawyer. In many states, unless you’re a contract employee, it is legal for an employer to lay off or fire an employee while on medical leave.
In this situation, it’s likely you will be offered a settlement. Do not accept or agree to anything until you have spoken with a workers comp lawyer. They’ll make sure your rights are protected and you receive as much money and workers comp as you’re entitled to.
In other situations, an employer might discriminate against you or harass you for your necessary changes. If you’re medically permitted to return to work, your employer should help you during this transitional period. Failing to do so is a direct violation of The Americans with Disabilities Act, and you can sue your employer for their harmful actions.
Also Read: 7 Red Flags You Should Sue Your Bad Employer
When Should You Hire A Traumatic Brain Injury Lawyer?
Traumatic brain injury lawyers are the first to listen carefully to all their client’s needs, and help them get the resources they need to achieve their goals. If you’re having a difficult time returning to work, call a lawyer.
You may be having trouble because others have failed to understand your needs as a traumatic brain injury survivor. You may need help revisiting some of the shortcomings in your journey such as:
- Being released too early by your doctor
- Your employer failing to make necessary changes
- Your workers compensation isn’t providing enough for you and your family
If you need help with your employer, doctor, or workers compensation, call a traumatic brain injury lawyer to get the protection you deserve.