I am asked a lot of questions about light duty work. If you are injured at work and your employer offers you light duty work, what should you do?
Well, first and foremost, the statute requires the employer to provide to your physician a statement describing the available work in terms which will allow the physician to determine the physical activities of job. The physician then determines whether the worker is able to perform the work described. You are also to be provided with a copy. So, if you get a phone call from your employer asking you to report to light duty work, ask for the written description and ask whether it has been provided to your physician, and whether your physician has approved it. Sometimes this paperwork flies around fairly quickly by Fax, so you might not be aware the job description was sent to your doctor. Ask for a copy.
If there is a written job description, and it has been approved by your medical provider – do you have to report to work? The choice is yours, of course. However, if you decline light duty work which has been approved by your physician your time loss benefits will stop. And, it will be hard to get them reinstated. Not impossible, but very difficult. You are better off reporting to work.
There are some things to keep in mind if you are returning to light duty work with your employer after an injury. First, this is not necessarily a bad thing. It may help your recovery to stay active, working a few hours a day can help ease you into a return to regular work. Staying connected to the work force reduces long-term disability. Returning to light duty or modified work may preserve your benefits including health care, pension contributions, vacation pay and the like. In most cases, workers will be better off financially if they return to work with their employer, even part-time work, sooner rather than later.
Making sure your physical restrictions and limitations are honored is your responsibility. If you are asked to do something outside your restrictions, politely decline. If you don’t enforce your restrictions, no one else will. If you are consistently asked to do work which exceeds your limitations, speak to a supervisor, and tell your attending medical provider. Your doctor may decide to pull you off the light duty work if you are doing tasks which place you at risk of reinjury or will slow your recovery.
Most employers are genuine in their desire to get you back to work, keep you connected to the work force, reduce your lost wages, and ultimately return you to regular work. I said ‘most’ not ‘all’. There is no rule of law which requires your employer to be nice to you. Some won’t be. Some will be rude, some will give you demeaning work, some will belittle you in front of your co-workers. They want you to quit. They want to trump up a reason to fire you for violating a company rule. If you are fired for cause or quit light duty work which was approved by your physician, your time loss benefits will not be reinstated. At least, not without a fight. These bad apple employers do not want you around. If they can not get you to quit, or find a reason to fire you for cause, the light duty work will likely evaporate and you will be eligible for time loss again. In the meantime, mutter karma, karma, karma under your breath, enforce your physical restrictions, and concentrate on your recovery.