Need more time to recover from concussion before returning to work?

by Ann

I tripped on a rock, twisted my ankle and subsequently hit my head on a work trailer. It gave me a severe concussion. I went to the minor emergency room as my bottom teeth came through my lip and I had a lot of blood loss as well. I also saw a WC doctor, who returned me to work the following Monday.

The full symptoms of the concussion did not show up for a few days: slowed/difficult speech, balance & coordination issues, unable to recognize my car, unable to drive, short-term memory loss, etc.

Then I met with a WC neurologist, and he said that it was "all in my head", and that it does not make sense that what he called a relapse would occur with a concussion.

This accident happened in April. Now it is July and my symptoms are worse. This is a County employer and they have allowed me a modified work schedule for about 20 days, and they said this is all they can do and I must return to work full-time.

I am concerned because my symptoms are worse. I feel I need more time off, and actually full-time rest for a while to recover. But I do not want to lose my job. I love my job and my clientele/families I work with. I am a juvenile probation officer.

I still can't drive or speak normally. I have not been there for a full year so do not qualify for FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act). I was there for eight months when the accident happened. Can they fire me from my position? What can I do to keep my job? I just need more time to recover. Any information you can give would be appreciated.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Need more time to recover from concussion before returning to work?":

Ann (Texas):

Can they fire me from my position?

Whether or not the county can terminate your employment depends on a couple of factors. In most cases, governmental entities must follow specific guidelines before they can terminate a worker's employment. Moreover, a worker can't be terminated without good cause, and only after the worker has had an opportunity to contest the county's request to terminate employment.

Additionally, it's likely even if the county wants to terminate your employment, you will have access to an appellate process. In that regard, you should take comfort in knowing you likely won't walk in one day and be fired.

What can I do to to keep my job?

You're in a precarious position. In your case, the treating physician(s) have clearly indicated you have recovered from the concussion and can return to your job duties. With that said, the county has every right to rely on the physician(s)' diagnoses and prognoses.

To legitimately avoid your job duties in an effort to have more time to recover, you will need at least one other medical opinion confirming your position. You have a right to ask the county to let you to see another physician, in hope the new physician will agree with you and support your request for additional recovery time.

In a further effort to support your position, seek another medical opinion from a private physician, even if you have to pay for the opinion out of your own funds.

Finally, if after seeking additional medical opinions the county doesn't change it's position, seek the advice and counsel of a workers' compensation attorney. Most will not charge for an initial office consultation.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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