Suffering an injury on the job can be a stressful experience. You may wonder whether workers’ comp will cover any medical bills. You may also wonder whether your employer plans to offer light-duty work while you recover.
Contact a qualified workers’ compensation attorney to determine what expenses workers’ comp covers as well as your rights and obligations with respect to light-duty work.
What Is Light Duty Work?
If you are receiving workers’ comp, light duty work may be an issue that has come up for you. Light duty applies to situations where a person is capable of returning to work but, because of their injury, can only perform certain aspects of their job.
Options for light duty work may include the following, depending on your injury:
- Fewer hours,
- Job modifications to prevent reinjury, or
- A new position.
Workers’ compensation pays only a portion of your wages while you are unable to work. Therefore, if you are receiving workers’ comp, light duty work can allow you to receive more of your normal income than you would have otherwise.
Workers’ Comp Light Duty: How Does It Work?
The Department of Labor encourages employers paying workers’ comp to offer light duty positions to injured workers.
Your employer is not required to offer you a light duty position if you suffer an injury on the job. Additionally, your employer may not force you to return to work early if you are not physically able to do so.
However, if your employer offers you light duty work that complies with limitations set by your physician, then you must accept their offer. Your return to work hinges on your physical capability to perform your job tasks without reaggravating your injury. A physician’s recommendation determines when you may return to your pre-injury work.
Your employer must expressly make any light duty job offer. Absent a formal job offer, you possess no obligation to return to work.
Based on the job’s light duty requirements, the law does not require your employer to pay you the same wages you earned before your injury. Upon accepting the light duty job offer, you must work this job until your recovery completes.
Can I Work While on Light Duty Waiting on a Workers’ Comp Claim?
You can still receive workers’ comp benefits while performing light duty work. However, there are some ways your light duty work may affect workers’ comp.
In most cases, when a worker obtaining wage replacement benefits is able to return to work, their workers’ compensation wage replacement benefits end. However, if someone is working on light duty while waiting on a workers’ comp claim, they may continue to be eligible for some wage benefits.
If the worker is unable to earn the same wages that they earned before their injury or has to work fewer hours while on light duty, they will be eligible for temporary partial disability benefits. Compensation equates to two-thirds of the difference between your pre-injury wages and your post-injury wages.
Calculation of your temporary partial disability rate is completed on a week-by-week basis with a maximum of 300 weeks permitted from the accident date.
Additionally, if your injury requires vocational rehabilitation, your employer must pay for these services if your pay is less than 75% of your earnings pre-injury.
For this reason, many workers find their employers maximizing their wages, despite light-duty work, to avoid paying for vocational rehabilitation.
Any medical costs or expenses incurred that resulted from your work-related injury must be paid by the workers’ comp insurance. The workers’ comp insurance company forwards these expenses to the Industrial Commission for review as to their reasonableness. If approved, the workers’ comp insurance pays your bills.
Light-duty work does not affect your ability to receive compensation for your medical costs. Even if you continue to work, the workers’ compensation insurer will be responsible to pay for any ongoing medical treatment related to your workplace injury.
Mehta & McConnell, PLLC attorneys are board-certified workers’ compensation lawyers prepared to assist you on the road to recovery after a work-related injury.
Our attorneys work to ensure you receive all the benefits you are entitled to, even if you are working on light duty. Contact our office today to receive a free consultation. We can answer any questions you may have regarding light-duty and workers’ compensation benefits.