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Can you be terminated due to a WC claim? Pennsylvania

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  • Can you be terminated due to a WC claim? Pennsylvania

    I'm a teacher and while leaning on a desk last April, it slid out and I wound up herniating my back (L5-S1). I began seeing one of the WC dr.'s listed with my employer and have done everything he has told me to...pain killers, rest, PT and epidural injections. None of these helped my pain, and I was refferred to see a spinal surgeon. During the summer, I got into an emotional funk and I think my dr. saw this. In August, he told me that I could try and go back to work for 5 hrs/day x 5days a week-with the knowledge that I may find that I'll be in too much pain to continue working and if that happened, I would have to go back out on WC. I was also to understand that this could change once I met w/the spinal surgeon.
    I spoke w/my employer and they said that they did not have a "light duty" position and therefore could not return to work. They told me that I could only come back to work when I was 100% and released from my dr. and during this time, I would continue to recieve WC benefits.
    At my next appt w/my dr., I informed him of my situation and asked him, "If I didn't have surgery, can you ever clear me to go back to work?" He shook his head, no, and then reassurred me that he felt the surgeon would feel that I was surgical.
    I met w/the surgeon a few days ago and he said that he did not think surgery would improve my symptoms, even though I'm still in a decent amount of pain and have numbness and tingling down my left leg. He wants to run a few more tests to make sure and said, "We'll go from there." His PA told me that I'll probably never be 100% again-even if I do have surgery. What does this mean for my future? Will I ever be able to work again? Will I recieve WC for the rest of my life? I'm only 26 y/o and have 3 kids...whom I can't pick up b/c I'm afraid I might drop them b/c my leg goes numb! I've also been informed that medical leaves of absence are only granted for 1 year...does this mean I may be terminated b/c I got hurt at work? And if so, then what do I do? Should I contact a lawyer?
    Last edited by pamkamp; 10-17-2006, 07:46 PM. Reason: I forgot to mention something

  • #2
    At this point, you need to see what your options are medically. You are fairly young so there should be something they can do. WC is paying for your time off work.

    It is hard to advise you until your medical status is more certain. If you are not able to return to your job, voc rehab may be an option for. This includes job retraining and placement assistance.

    You might also qualify under ADA for an accommodation from the school to allow you to perform your old job or transfer to one that is less physically demanding.

    Once you have reached maximum medical improvement (MMI), if there are permanent disabilities as a result, you may file for what is called Permanent Partial Disability. This is monetary compensation to cover the degree of permanent disability as a result of the injury. There are a number of ways to handle this, and when you get to that stage, I would certainly advise you to hire a lawyer.

    At this point, you have little to gain from a lawyer, though it is your right to hire one. Nothing is being contested, you still have your job, you are receiving all the benefits you are entitled to and are far from MMI. There just isn't much a lawyer can do for you yet. Also, once you hire a lawyer, that person becomes your spokesperson in a sense. Your ability to speak with claims adjusters, doctors and even your employer regarding your claim s diminished. If you do hire a lawyer, make sure it is someone who is responsive to you and that you can work with.

    I can't say for sure what your district will do or how long they will hold your job. Much of that will be governed by your contract and the union agreement. They must hold it for at least 12 weeks. Most school systems will hold a position for much longer than that. You will need to check with HR or your union for options.
    I post with the full knowledge and support of my employer, though the opinions rendered are my own and not necessarily representative of their position. In other words, I'm a free agent.


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