Light Duty Work Restrictions and Workers’ Compensation in Virginia

 

Your physician may release you to light duty at some point after your work injury. Receiving light duty work restrictions is an important point in the workers’ compensation claims process. How you and the employer handle your light duty restrictions plays an important role in determining the value of your workers’ compensation settlement.

 

This article explains the role of light duty work restrictions in Virginia workers’ compensation and answers questions that may arise when your physician releases you to light duty work or when an employer offers you work within your light duty restrictions. If you have any questions or comments, or are looking for legal representation, contact workers’ compensation lawyer Corey Pollard for a free strategy session.

 

What is Light Duty Work?

 

Light duty work is either a modified version of the job you had when you were injured or a new job at a lower exertion level. A light duty job considers your physical restrictions. It may involve fewer hours, less physical labor (less lifting, reduced overhead reaching, etc), or non-production work.

 

Common examples of light duty work include:

 

  • Clerical work (administrative work or a desk job)
  • Supervisory role (such as construction foreman)
  • Inventory control
  • Surveillance monitor

 

Does My Employer Have to Offer Light Duty Work?

 

Under the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Act employers are not required to offer light duty work to employees seeking to return after a work injury.

 

Other state or federal laws may, however, require employers of a certain size to accommodate a worker on light duty. And employers have other incentives to create a light duty position for an injured worker. When an injured employee returns to work, his or her temporary total disability benefits will be reduced or eliminated. This may lower the employer’s workers’ compensation insurance premiums.

 

Can an Injured Worker Refuse a Light Duty Job Offer from the Employer?

 

If you turn down a light duty job offer that is within your medical restrictions and that your doctor has signed off on, then your employer and its insurance carrier may file a hearing to suspend or terminate your workers’ compensation benefits. You may lose your workers’ compensation benefits if you reject a light duty job within your restrictions.

 

Can I Refuse Light Duty Work If I’ve Taken Leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)?

 

The FMLA provides certain employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave each year. It does not, however, protect your workers’ compensation benefits if you turn down a light duty job offer within your medical restrictions.

 

Will I Make Less Money if I Return to Work Under Light Duty Restrictions?

 

Maybe.

 

Some employers will pay your regular wages even if you’re working under light duty restrictions. Other employers will pay you a reduced wage because you’re not performing the same tasks that you were performing at the time you were injured.

 

If your employer pays you at a lower rate while you’re on light duty, then you may be entitled to temporary partial disability benefits in Virginia.

 

Does an Employer Have to Reinstate My Regular Position if My Doctor Removes the Light Duty Work Restrictions?

 

Though your employer cannot terminate you solely because you filed a workers’ compensation claim, the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Act does not require employers to reinstate an employee’s original job when light duty restrictions are removed and the employee is released to full duty.

 

Do I Have to Look for Light Duty Work While Receiving Workers’ Compensation Benefits?

 

You do not have to look for light duty work if you have an award for temporary total disability benefits.

 

You must, however, accept a light duty job within your work restrictions if offered. Refusing the light duty job offer may put your wage loss benefits at risk.

 

Will Being Released to Light Duty Affect How the Employer and Insurer Defend My Workers’ Comp Case?

 

The employer and its insurance carrier may refuse to offer you an Award Agreement form if you’re released to light duty work before the Commission has entered an Award Order providing you wage loss benefits or before your workers’ comp hearing.

 

This is because you have an obligation to look for work if you’ve been released to light duty work and do not have an Award Order. The insurance carrier may defend your claim on the basis that you did not adequately market your light duty capacity, which is a fancy way of saying that your job search is inadequate.

 

If you’re released to light duty work while your claim is pending, make sure you contact an experienced attorney to discuss your job search obligations under the Workers’ Compensation Act.

 

An Experienced Workers’ Compensation Attorney to Guide You Through Light Duty Work Restrictions and Job Offers

 

Some studies show that light duty work has benefits: it can speed up the physical recover process and have a positive impact on the mental health of injured employees. Having a job can provide fulfillment and motivate an injured employee to continue to battle against their injuries.

 

Some companies, however, create and offer degrading and mind-numbing light duty jobs that have one purpose only: to make you show up. Employers know that if you do not show up to a light duty job within your restrictions then they can fire you or cut off your wage loss benefits.

 

It’s important that you protect yourself through the workers’ comp process. Many questions may arise when you’re discussing light duty work restrictions with your physician or trying to decide whether to accept a light duty job offer. Workers’ comp attorney Corey Pollard can provide guidance and help you make decisions that protect your benefits and increase the value of your claim.