New Hampshire’s Workers’ Compensation Statute
Several years ago there was absolutely no job protection for an injured worker under New Hampshire’s Workers’ Compensation Statute. The typical injured worker was not the CEO of the company and therefore did not have a detailed employment contract that provided job protection. If the worker was not a member of a union covered by a collective bargaining agreement, or worked for a progressive company that had a company policy in a handbook that allowed the injured worker to return to work after the recovery period, the employer could terminate the employee at any time after the work-related injury.
New federal laws passed in recent years are widely recognized as providing job protection. The Family Medical Leave Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act provide some job security for seriously injured workers. Under these federal laws, it does not matter whether the injury is job related. Unfortunately, these laws do not apply to the vast majority of the workers’ compensation claims in New Hampshire.
Protection for New Hampshire Workers
Fortunately, there are two recent amendments to the New Hampshire Workers’ Compensation Statute that are not well known and provide more job protection to more injured workers than the federal laws. RSA 281-A:23-b became effective on February 8, 1994. This new provision obligates employers with five or more employees to develop an alternative duty work plan in order to provide injured employees with light duty work. The obligation to provide light duty is not unlimited. It is only intended to cover the period of time that the injured employee is recovering from the injury. The employee is not entitled to a permanent light duty assignment under this law.
The other recent amendment to New Hampshire’s Workers’ Compensation Law is RSA 281-A:25-a which provides for the reinstatement of an injured employee to the employee’s former position with the employer. There are numerous loopholes and limitations to this law. Nonetheless, it is an important addition to New Hampshire’s Workers’ Compensation Law because it clearly shows that the legislature intends to provide some job security for injured workers. Injured workers should consult with an experienced attorney to explore their individual rights.
While New Hampshire’s new laws protecting workers are not well known, consulting with the attorneys at Normand | Higham will help injured workers know their legal rights.