Light Duty Work and Workers’ Compensation: What You Need to Know
Have you been offered light duty work after suffering a work injury in Pennsylvania? Before returning to work, it is important to understand the potential implications of accepting such a job offer. You may also want to speak with a workers’ compensation lawyer, in order to make sure you don’t compromise your case.
In this post, we will discuss what to consider when deciding whether or not to try light duty work. Having all of the necessary information will help ensure that you make an informed decision that is in your best interest.
Overview of light duty work in Pennsylvania
Light duty work is defined as any job or task that is different from the employee’s regular duties, and which has been medically approved. It typically involves less physically demanding tasks, fewer hours, or both as compared to your regular job duties.
You may require light duty work for a number of reasons, such as a physical limitation due to an injury or medical condition. These limitations may, or may not, be related to a work injury. Importantly, you may have non-work-related medical conditions that can result in light duty work restrictions from your doctor, as well.
In the context of having suffered a work injury, however, your employer may offer light duty for a number of reasons. In a perfect world, your employer will be able to completely accommodate your restrictions. This would allow you to return back to work and earn your wages while still receiving treatment for your work injury. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen.
Benefits and drawbacks of accepting a light duty job offer
If the light duty work being offered is in line with your work restrictions, both you and your employer may experience several benefits. These may include:
- Ability to retain your job and income;
- Chance to stay involved in some of your regular job duties;
- Opportunity to receive medical benefits while receiving treatment for an injury;
- Potential reduction of stress due to decreased work hours or physical tasks; and
- Possibility of retaining a sense of normalcy and routine by staying at the same workplace.
Most importantly, you can hopefully make a full recovery from your work injury after working light duty for a period of time. If so, the Pennsylvania workers’ comp system will have worked exactly as it should.
At the same time, working a light duty job after suffering a work injury can have some drawbacks. A few of them may be:
- Reduced wages due to fewer hours or lighter tasks;
- Difficulty finding other employment if the light duty job is not in line with your work restrictions and you cannot return to your regular duties;
- Unwanted stress from performing physical tasks that may be painful or uncomfortable due to your work injury;
- Restricted access to certain medical treatments for your work injury while employed in the light duty role; and
- Loss of seniority, promotional opportunities, and/or benefits when taking on a lower paying role than what was held prior to the injury.
With these benefits and drawbacks in mind, you should also be aware of the legal considerations of working light duty. We’ll discuss those in our next section.
Legal considerations when deciding whether to accept a light duty job offer
When considering whether to accept a light duty job offer in Pennsylvania, it is important to understand the legal implications of such a decision. In this section, we will discuss some key legal considerations to take into account before making your final decision.
Importantly, however, you should consult with your lawyer prior to attempting any light duty work. This is because the best approach for you will depend on the specific facts of your workers’ compensation case.
The work complies with your work restrictions
Initially, your employer may send you a letter in the mail indicating that they have received a copy of your doctor’s work restrictions. If so, this letter will indicate that your employer believes they have light duty work that complies with your doctor’s restrictions and that they want you to report for work at a certain date and time.
When you report for work, you should let your employer know that you are ready and willing to try the light duty job to the best of your ability. Then, you should put in a good faith effort to complete the work as best you can.
If the work totally complies with your work restrictions, that is great! This means that you will be able to continue working and earning a living while still receiving the necessary treatment for your work injury. This is how the Pennsylvania workers’ compensation system should work.
Light duty does not totally comply with your work restrictions
Unfortunately, sometimes the light duty job is not totally consistent with your doctor’s work restrictions. Once you have tried the job and realized that this is the case, you should notify your employer of the following:
- The light duty work does not fully comply with your restrictions;
- You are willing to continue working if your employer can modify the job to comply with your work restrictions;
- If your employer can modify the job, you will attempt to continue working to the best of your ability; and
- If your employer is unwilling, or unable, to modify the job, you will not be able to continue working.
If this happens, make sure you contact your lawyer immediately. Depending on the facts of your case, your lawyer may need to file a petition to put your case in court right away in order to fight for your wage loss benefits. In other instances, your employer may file a petition to try and stop your wage loss benefits.
Importantly, if you tried the light duty job that was offered to you, you’ll be able to testify truthfully in front of the judge about your experience. Keep this in mind because a Workers’ Compensation Judge will ultimately be the one to decide whether you should keep or receive your wage loss benefits.
Consequences of refusing to respond to the job offer
To begin with, there are certainly situations where it may be a bad idea to attempt light duty work offered by your employer. However, refusing is typically very risky.
Remember, you will likely have to testify before a judge about why you should get or keep your wage loss benefits. It is much stronger for you to be able to explain to the judge your personal experience of having tried the light duty job. In that circumstance, you can explain why you believe the work was, or was not, in compliance with your work restrictions.
On the other hand, if you refuse to respond to the light duty job offer, you will be unable to give a first-hand explanation of the work. As a result, it may be harder for the judge to believe that you could not have performed the light duty work.
In addition, this may make it harder for the judge to justify awarding you wage loss benefits. And at the same time, your refusal may make it easier for the judge to say that your employer does not need to keep paying wage loss benefits.
Contact Kitay Law Offices if you have received a light duty job offer
We hope this article has given you a better understanding of how to approach the decision of whether or not to accept a light duty job offer after suffering a work injury in Pennsylvania. It is important to remember that there are both benefits and drawbacks when it comes to taking on such roles, and legal considerations must also be taken into account before making your final choice.
Ultimately, no matter what path you take, consulting with an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer can help ensure that all your rights under the law are protected. If you have received a light duty job offer following a work injury in Pennsylvania, contact Kitay Law Offices today for personalized advice tailored specifically for your case.