If you’re hurt at work and qualify for workers’ compensation benefits, there may come a time when you can return to light duty work. This type of work means you should be assigned lighter work than what you normally perform.
Light duty is meant to provide a way for you to return to work without pushing you beyond your limits. It also offers your employer and their insurance company a way to save money in workers’ compensation benefits.
If your doctor has recommended that you return to light duty work, or you think you feel okay to return to work with lighter duties, there are a few things you should know. A Kentucky workers’ compensation lawyer can explain provide more insights and ensure your rights are always upheld.
What You Should Look Out for with Light Duty Work
Although light duty work allows you to earn an income again to help pay your daily expenses, there are a few things to look out for when returning to work.
The first is that your doctor may not understand all of your limitations when clearing you for light duty work. If after attempting light duty, you still feel as though you cannot perform this light work, you should then go back to the doctor and explain the difficulties you’re having. If the doctor doesn’t seem as though they want to help, an attorney can help you find another doctor who can provide a second opinion.
You should also be aware that your employer may try to push you too far while you’re back at work. Even when your employer is cooperative, they may not fully understand the extent of your injuries and the limitations you have. The employer should provide a list of the lighter duties that you can take back to your doctor who can advise whether you can perform those tasks.
Your employer could also attempt to punish you when you return to work. They may demote you, lower your wages, or force you to do menial work. They may even harass you. All of these actions are illegal. When an employer takes part in them, you can take legal action against them.
What Is Workers’ Compensation Light Duty Work?
When a doctor clears you to return to light duty work, it typically means that you are not yet fully recovered from your injury. However, you also have likely made very positive advancements in your treatment and the doctor likely thinks you will make a full recovery.
Because you are not yet back to your best health, you will have to perform lighter duties than you normally would. For example, you may not be able to sit for extended periods of time or lift anything over a certain weight. Perhaps your work hours will be shortened.
After returning to work in a light duty capacity, you may also earn less money than you earned prior to your injury, although this isn’t always the case. If you do earn less in wages, you may be able to rely on workers’ compensation to make up the difference.
Does an Employer Have to Offer Light Duty Work?
There are many reasons employees may wish to return to work, even if it’s before they’re ready. One of the biggest of these is that they may want to resume earning their full income, rather than the percentage of it that workers’ compensation offers. However, employers are not required to offer light duty work.
When determining if an employee can return to work, the employer will typically work with the employee’s doctor. The doctor will provide advice on the patient’s condition and how the treatment is progressing. The employer will tell the doctor what type of work they may be able to offer the employee. If the doctor agrees that the employee could likely perform light duty work, generally speaking, the employee must return to work.
There are also situations in which an employer may want an employee to return to work before they are able to safely do so. This may be due to the fact that while the employee is away, it’s placing a strain on the business and on the employer’s bottom line.
Employers sometimes also want employees to return to work after an injury because it can save them on workers’ compensation insurance. An employer’s insurance rates often increase after a workers’ comp claim because it costs the insurer money and they pass those costs onto employers.
When this is the case and an employer and doctor require a worker to return to work before they are ready, employees may not have to return to work right away. Under the Family and Medical Leave Act, many workers can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave if they have a serious medical condition.
Examples of Light Duty
Light duty work may include:
- Inventory parts and supplies
- Pick up garbage in the yard and parking lot
- Inspect fire extinguishers and eye wash stations
- Complete safety inspections
- Sort and deliver mail
- Train new employees
- Answer telephones
- File paperwork
- Shred documents
- Clean tools
- Perform light housekeeping
- Complete safety training
Your employer may also ask you to perform your same job, but at a slower and more relaxed pace.
Talk to a Kentucky Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Now
There may be many disputes that arise between you and your employer when you’re collecting workers’ compensation after being injured. Unfortunately, those disputes don’t always end as soon as you return to work.
If you’ve been placed on light duty and feel as though your employer is being unfair, you need the help of a workers’ compensation lawyer in Kentucky. At Morgan, Collins, Yeast & Salyer, we always make your health our priority and we have the Kentucky Courage to hold employers accountable when they treat you unfairly.
If you and your employer are in a dispute over light duty or any other aspect of a workers’ compensation claim, contact us today to schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys.