If you suffered a work injury, doing your job may be impossible in the early weeks or months of your recovery. However, what if your employer pressures you to return to work sooner and even offers you a job your doctor clears you to do? If you refuse light-duty work, could you lose your benefits or even your job?
Schmidt Kramer explains more about light-duty work after an injury on the job, including what it is and what could happen to your benefits if you turn down a work offer from your employer.
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What Does it Mean if Your Doctor Releases You With Restrictions?
Before you can go back to work, your doctor must first examine and clear you. If you are released, it means your doctor feels you have recovered enough to go back to work. It may not mean, however, that you are physically ready or able to do the job you did prior to your work injury.
It means simply that your doctor has examined your injuries and determined you have recovered to at least a certain point. If your doctor feels, based on that examination, that you have at least recovered to a certain level, you may be released to do light-duty work.
What is Light-Duty Work in a Workers’ Comp Claim?
Light duty is the level of work your doctor determines you have recovered enough to safely do without worsening your injuries. To ensure the work is appropriate and is less likely to cause a setback in your recovery, your doctor will also include medical restrictions defining your physical and mental limitations. Your employer must abide by these restrictions.
For example, if your job was working as a foreman at a construction site, your doctor is unlikely to release you to return to that level of work. Your employer may, however, offer you office work with fewer hours and less strenuous physical labor.
Some examples of medical restrictions your doctor might specify include:
- How long you can tolerate standing or sitting without feeling pain or discomfort
- The number of hours you are permitted to work
- The type of work you are released to do
- Whether you will need periodic breaks to rest or lessen discomfort
- How much weight you can safely lift without causing you pain or risking re-injury
Can I Get a Second Opinion From Another Doctor?
In Pennsylvania, you always have a right to get a second opinion from another doctor. In some situations, this step may be wise or even necessary if you have concerns with the doctor’s diagnosis or feel you are being rushed back to work before you are ready. Since your treating physician may have to be chosen from a panel list compiled by your employer, he or she may be biased. Getting a second opinion from your own doctor may reassure you about your diagnosis, treatment recommendations and whether whether you are ready to be released for light-duty work. That said, be aware that if you do seek a second opinion, you will likely have to pay for that examination.
Must I Accept Light-Duty Work While on Workers Comp in PA?
If your doctor releases you, and your employer offers you light-duty work, it is natural to have concerns. You may wonder if you are returning to work too soon and whether it could affect your continued recovery. Although your concerns are valid, your doctor will not release you to work unless he or she believes you can do so without causing you further harm or aggravating your existing injury. Additionally, turning down an employer’s offer to do light-duty work could be a bad idea. If you do, your employer may have grounds to seek to modify or discontinue your benefits.
If your employer offers you light-duty work, it is vital that you contact him or her right away. Ask for more details about the job he or she is offering and what it entails. Waiting even a couple of days to get in touch with your employer may make it seem as if you do not want to go back to work. It could even risk your job if your employer is already looking for a valid reason to let you go.
After Accepting Light-Duty Work
Take the job as seriously as you did before you were injured. In other words, dress and behave professionally, follow company rules and policies and show up on time. Resist the temptation of using your injuries as a reason to be late and do the tasks you are given to the best of your ability.
What If My Employer Fires Me While on Light Duty?
Sometimes, despite following every precaution and making a sincere effort to get back to work as soon as possible, your employer may still fire you. This could result in one of two outcomes:
- If you are let go despite doing your best, being on time and doing the job, you will still be able to continue receiving workers’ comp benefits.
- If you are fired for other reasons, such as showing up late or not at all, your benefits could be at risk.
What if My Employer Does Not Offer Me Light-Duty Work?
Pennsylvania workers’ compensation law does not require your employer to offer you a job that is easier for you to do while recovering from your injuries. In other words, even if your doctor releases you and says you have recovered enough to work fewer hours or do tasks that are less strenuous, there might not be an available position.
If your employer does not have a light-duty work position to offer you, you can continue to recover at home without risking any pause or termination of your workers’ comp benefits.
Call to Discuss Your Workers’ Comp Claim Today
At Schmidt Kramer, we have been helping injured victims recover the compensation and benefits they need for decades. We have extensive knowledge about managing workers’ comp cases and a history of proven results.
Not sure if we can help? That’s okay. You do not risk any money in contacting us. Your initial case review is completely free. If you have a case and our firm represents you, there is nothing to pay up front. We will fight to protect your legal rights and best interests, and we do not receive payment unless we recover compensation for you.
Call 24/7 for legal help with an experienced Pennsylvania workers’ comp lawyer. (717) 727-1403