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What happens when a workplace injury causes partial disability?

California's Department of Industrial Relations offers advice for employees left with a permanent partial disability after an on-the-job injury. Ideally, employers would provide an alternative or modified role in the organization, a position that pays at least 85 percent of the wages you were earning before the incident. Sometimes such a role is impossible to design, so what are your options when that happens?

One alternative, according to the DIR, may be taking advantage of supplemental job displacement benefits. These benefits may include vocational counseling, training at one of California's eligible providers and fees for new licensing and testing. If a laptop is on your list of items needed before returning to school, some voucher funds could go toward purchasing one. They may also cover other unexpected expenses that come up while you are learning a new occupation.

When considering career options, given your post-injury limitations, the DIR recommends speaking with a vocational return to work counselor. VRTWCs have trained to consider a worker's job skills and current limitations when offering advice about future employment. Besides benefitting from the counselor's knowledge, you may feel better simply knowing you have someone in your corner as you navigate the difficult challenges of reinventing yourself for a new career path. 

Before you jump fully into a different line of work, however, be sure you have given your current employer enough time to come up with modified responsibilities for you. The DIR says a company's offer of an alternative position must come within 60 days of when the doctor declares you eligible to return to work.

Note that if your employer offers a modified assignment and you decline it, you no longer qualify for supplemental job displacement benefits. It is when your employer does not offer any alternatives that you may consider inquiring about  an SJDB voucher.

This information aims to provide insight about options for injured workers and does not intend to provide legal advice. 

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