"Light-Duty Work" And Your Workers' Compensation Claim

Posted on: 29 May 2019

"Light-duty work" is one of the most frequently confusing issues that injured workers face. When you've suffered an on-the-job injury, it's generally best to give your body plenty of time to heal—and that means staying off the job. However, employers frequently will push "light-duty" assignments on injured employees and encourage them to take it, rather than stay on workers' comp.

If you find yourself in that position, here are some of the most important things that you need to keep in mind about your rights.

Not All Employers Are Required To Offer Light-Duty Work

State laws vary regarding an injured employee's right to light-duty work. In some states, employers who have a significant workforce must offer light duty work to an injured employee. Other states don't require it. Generally speaking, however, you should be suspicious if an employer offers you light-duty work that seems like it is a made-up position that has been designed solely to get you off the workers' comp list. 

For example, unless your employer routinely hires someone to just do filing and sort the mail that comes in, being offered a light-duty position that has you doing that job could be a pretext to end your workers' comp benefits and protections.

You May Have The Right To Refuse The Light-Duty Position

You aren't required to accept a light-duty position unless your physician has medically cleared you to handle light-duty work. If your doctor has cleared you for light-duty, you would be risking your workers' compensation benefits to refuse the position.

However, you are never required to accept a light-duty position that doesn't accommodate the restrictions you are under. For example, if you have a back injury and have been cleared for light-duty work that doesn't require lifting, bending, or standing, you wouldn't be required to accept a position that required you to file paperwork all day. The process of standing around and bending over a file cabinet to put paperwork in the right files would violate the accommodations you need.

Your Employer Can't Deny You The Right To Resume Your Old Job

If you do accept a light-duty position, your employer cannot use it as an excuse to remove you from your old job once you are no longer under medical restrictions. You retain the right to return to your previous position once your doctor gives you clearance.

Do you believe that your employer is violating your rights to workers' compensation by giving you light-duty work that doesn't afford you the appropriate accommodations for your injury? Or do you believe that the light-duty assignment is a pretext to get you off workers' comp and eventually dismiss you altogether? If so, a workers compensation attorney can help you learn more about your rights.