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You do not have to return to light-duty work unless your doctor says you are able and the job the Employer offers is within the restrictions the doctor orders!
In my experience, issues related to returning to work on light duty are the most frequent reason why an employee has a problem which requires an attorney’s help. Even if a claim is going just fine, treatment is being provided, and the employee is getting all the benefits he or she is entitled to, problems can arise when it comes to light duty. The best and safest way to return to light-duty work is to consult with an attorney BEFORE you are released to light duty and return to work.
If you have been injured in a work-related accident and have been taken out of work by your treating doctor, you do not have to return to work until you have been cleared to do so by your doctor. It is common for the employer, at the request of the Workers’ Compensation Insurance company, to provide an injured employee with “light duty” work. The idea is that this work is supposed to be lighter in physical requirements than the normal job. If this “light” work is properly provided to the employee, they are required to accept reasonable accommodations and return to work or risk having their disability checks stopped. But here is the catch: the light work that an Employer provides for the injured employee must be consistent with the restrictions that the treating doctor has given the employee. It is risky to accept light work that is more strenuous than what your doctor has advised.
If your Employer contacts you and is requiring you to return to the job for a “light duty” assignment, you should ask the employer to put the complete job description and all job duties in writing and check with your doctor to make sure it is safe for you to perform these duties. If you go ahead and report to work and end up performing more strenuous work, you could further injure yourself and potentially cause your case to be more complicated. It is hard to argue later that you have limitations that you did not appear to have while you were on “light duty.” Also, if you return to work without a clear job description in place, the employer will be forced to come up with tasks over and over again throughout the “light duty” period. This can cause bad will between the supervisor and the employee, sometimes with other employees too. Also, there is a real likelihood that you may be asked to perform tasks that will hurt you physically or hurt your case in the long run.
Safest way to handle a “light duty” request
The safest way to handle a “light duty” request by your employer is to ask that it be put in writing and then make sure your doctor approves of this specific work and the tasks involved. If your doctor looks at the employer’s job description and feels the work is not appropriate for your injuries. The employer refuses to adjust the “light work” accordingly, that is a red flag that you need to see a lawyer right away.
Once you return to a “light duty” position, make sure that you stay within your doctor’s restrictions. If your employer asks you to perform job duties outside of your restrictions, show them your doctor’s note, shares with us Marietta Accident Attorney Ramiro Rodriguez, Jr.
This is an excerpt of the book “11 Secrets to Winning Your Workers’ Compensation Claim.” This book will answer many of these questions and give you the knowledge you need. Get your free copy now.