Accommodating an employee with a serious injury

Sometimes the unthinkable happens outside of work. For one lawyer, an autumn afternoon bike ride took a horrific turn. Hit by an oncoming car while biking, he was paralyzed due to fractures in his spine.

In a serious situation such as this, many employers want to help, but aren’t sure what to do. That’s when consultants, such as myself, can step in. Finding the right solution for an accommodation often takes creative thinking. In my role as a vocational case manager, I worked with the lawyer and his employer to help in the following ways.

Create a sense of normalcy
Wanting to return to his ordinary routine, the lawyer sought to get back to normal to work as soon as he was able. That’s when his employer reached out to The Standard to help accommodate his work and medical needs in his home office.

Foster a strong understanding
I went to visit him at his home to conduct an initial assessment to gauge his feelings about returning to work and learn about his medical needs. This employee didn’t want to be at home doing nothing; he was interested in working as much as he was capable of doing and “getting on” with his life and had the support of his medical team.

Develop a conducive work environment
After conducting the assessment, I worked with local vendors to determine the proper office layout — including desk height, computer monitor distance, keyboard and mouse functionality, and phone headset capabilities. Our accommodations had to ensure they took into account the height of the lawyer’s wheelchair and that he needed to recline every 20 minutes to relieve pressure on his spine.

Sustain a continued relationship

My work isn’t finished when the accommodation set up is complete. I connected with the employee regularly to troubleshoot what wasn’t working, investigate alternative options and upgrade equipment and software. After a few months, the lawyer fulfilled his goal of returning to work on a modified schedule.

In this profession, we have an intrinsic desire to help others. To make someone’s life whole again. Especially in an instance such as this.

Many employers and employees alike don’t know this type of help exists. They think the only option is to file a disability claim. They think there’s no other way for them to move on with their lives. But there is.

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