If you have sustained an injury on the job, you may consequently be placed on a light duty or a no-work restriction by the treating workers’ compensation doctor. When this happens, you need to make sure that the restrictions you are given make sense with respect to the tasks you are ordinarily required to perform and the nature of the injury you have sustained.
If your doctor has given you reasonable work restrictions, you should get them in writing and give a copy to your employer. You should also make a copy for yourself and, should you be required to return to work on light duty, keep it with you at all times.
No-work vs. Light Duty
Obviously, a no-work restriction means exactly what it describes and that is that you cannot return to work. You should be at home receiving temporary disability benefits. Light duty on the other hand may mean, for instance, that you are restricted from lifting more than 10 pounds, standing for more than 4 hours per day, or doing any pushing, pulling or climbing, and that you can be asked by your employer to return to work so that they can accommodate your work restrictions.
Returning to Work
You, on the other hand, may feel that returning to work on light duty is not applicable to you because you work in a warehouse and will necessarily have to lift more than ten pounds, or because you are a truck driver and you have to climb up into your truck, or because you are a nurse and will have to be on your feet all day, etc. However, you cannot make this assumption.
Your employer has the right to say, for example, that they will take you out of the warehouse, off of the hospital floor, or off the construction site and put you in an office where you can answer phones or do filings. In other words, your employer has a right to try to accommodate your light duty restrictions.
That being said, your employer must have a legitimate and proper job for you to perform that complies with your work restrictions. If you return to work and you are asked to lift more than ten pounds, be on your feet all day, climb up into that truck, or whatever the case may be, you need to let your supervisor know right away that your doctor has restricted you from performing these types of tasks.
At this point, your employer will do one of two things:
1. Find a legitimate light duty job that complies with your work restrictions; or
2. Disregard your work restrictions and demand that you perform those tasks anyway.
If your employer chooses the latter, you need to call a workers’ compensation attorney right away so that they can contact the insurance company to:
1. Let them know that your employer has asked you back to work, but has failed to provide you with a job that complies with your work restrictions; and
2. Request that they reinstate your temporary disability benefits and allow you to go home, since your employer clearly cannot accommodate your restrictions.
If you have any question as to what it means to have your employer accommodate your work restrictions and/or what constitutes a legitimate light duty job, you need to speak with an experienced workers’ compensation about the nature of your injury and the circumstances pertaining to your return to work on light duty.