Do you have an obligation to accept an offer of light duty work from your employer while under restrictions for a worker’s compensation injury?
As worker’s compensation attorneys one of the most frequent questions we receive from our clients is whether they have to accept an offer from their employer to perform light duty work that is within the client’s treating doctor’s restrictions. The answer is almost always “yes.”
If your employer offers light duty work at a lesser rate of pay while you are still healing, you will be entitled to temporary partial disability benefits. Temporary partial disability benefits are calculated as a ratio of what light duty work pays as compared to your actual wage at the time of injury.
As an example, suppose that a worker is earning $10 per hour at time of her injury. She is then brought back to work on light duty after her injury and earns $6 per hour for light duty. She will therefore be earning 60% of her wage, and she will be entitled to 40% in temporary partial disability benefits. However, if the worker refuses light duty work, she will only receive 40% of her temporary total disability benefit.
However, an employee may refuse an offer of light duty work under the following circumstances:
- The offer of employment is “Unreasonable”
- The work is outside of the employee’s medical restrictions
- The employee would have to travel an unreasonable distance to the light duty work
- The work offered was part-time but employee would have to punch in and out several times a day
If you refuse an offer of light duty work, the employer will take the position that it had work available, but you refused. By refusing an offer of light duty work, you also run the risk of jeopardizing potential future claims for vocational retraining or loss of earning capacity benefits if you are unable to return to work with your employer earning at or near your pre-injury wage.
In sum, unless one of the four circumstances listed above applies, you should accept your employer’s offer of light duty work that is within your treating doctor’s restrictions.