Following an on-the-job injury, your best option is often to stay home and focus on recovery. However, not all work-related injuries are severe enough to prevent the worker from doing any kind of work. Thus, when a doctor does not consider your injury serious enough to stay home, the doctor may clear you for light-duty work.
You might be wondering:
- “What is light-duty work?”
- “Will light-duty work affect my workers’ comp benefits?”
- “Can I refuse to accept a light-duty job offer?”
If you were offered light-duty work but are not sure whether you should accept or deny the offer, consult with a Florida workers’ compensation attorney at Sternberg / Forsythe, P.A.
What Does ‘Light-Duty Work’ Mean?
Typically, when an employee is injured in a work-related accident, they will stop working to undergo medical treatment and recover. If that is the case, the employer must provide workers’ compensation benefits to pay for lost wages and medical expenses.
However, there are situations when an injured worker can return to work while receiving workers’ comp benefits. In this situation, the workers’ comp authorized physician may restrict some physically-demanding activities to avoid impeding the employee’s recovery or aggravating their condition. When this happens, the employer should offer light-duty work.
Light-duty work can be either a modified (less physically-demanding) version of your pre-injury job or a new job at a lower exertion level. When the doctor allows you to return to work with certain limitations, your employer should provide light-duty work if such an option is available.
The light-duty work option offered by your employer must accommodate all of the restrictions imposed by the doctor. Typically, this means taking away physically-demanding tasks from your duties.
Examples of Light-Duty Work
Light-duty work can be either a modified version of your pre-injury job or a different job, but only as long as it is less demanding than your regular job based on your work-related injury or disability. Some examples of light-duty work are:
- Doing less physical labor
- Working slower
- Reducing working hours
- Performing administrative tasks
- Supervising job sites or other employees
- Working at a desk
- Monitoring surveillance systems
Typically, light-duty work does not involve such physically-demanding tasks as squatting, bending, lifting or moving things, carrying heavy items, and climbing a ladder, among others.
How Does Light-Duty Work Affect Workers’ Compensation?
The effect of light-duty work on your workers’ compensation benefits depends on your light-duty wage:
- Your workers’ comp benefits for lost wages will discontinue if the light-duty work brings you the same amount or more money than your normal, pre-injury job;
- You will continue receiving payments for the loss of income if you make less money than before the work-related injury.
Typically, employees are entitled to compensation for lost wages through workers’ comp if they are making less than 80% of their pre-injury wages. In other words, if you switched to light-duty work and are earning the same amount or more money than before, your payments for lost wages would stop. On the other hand, if your light-duty work brings you less money (less than 80% of what you earned before the workplace accident), you will continue receiving benefits for lost wages.
Note: Workers’ comp benefits for the loss of income reimburse no more than two-thirds of your pre-injury average weekly wage.
Can You Deny Your Employer’s Light-Duty Work Offer?
If your doctor cleared you for light-duty work and your employer made an appropriate offer that accommodates all of the restrictions, you will most likely have to accept the offer. Denying your employer’s light-duty work offer would most likely result in a loss of your workers’ comp payments.
Under Florida’s workers’ compensation law, injured employees must be willing to return to work while recovering, as long as such an option exists and their doctor released them for light-duty work. However, if the offered light-duty work option fails to accommodate all of the restrictions imposed by the doctor or the employer is trying to retaliate against an injured worker, the employee may be able to deny a light-duty work offer without losing their workers’ comp benefits.
Discuss your particular situation with a Florida workers’ compensation attorney if you were offered a light-duty work option but are unsure whether you should accept the offer or not. Contact our knowledgeable attorneys at Sternberg / Forsythe, P.A., for a case evaluation. Call at (561) 529-9569.