My Employer Offered Me Light Duty Work, Do I have to Accept This Job?
When you sustain an injury during the course and scope of your employment and file a claim for workers’ compensation, both you and your employer have some choices. We can assure you that your employer will make decisions in their best interest so it’s important for you to understand the process and know your rights, particularly when it comes to accepting light duty work.
The first step is to seek medical treatment after which your medical professional (doctor, physicians assistant, psychologist, chiropractor, etc.) will generally issue you restrictions. First and foremost, we at Meuser Law Office P.A. advise our clients to get these restrictions from your treating physician in writing. Documentation is key to successfully navigating the workers’ compensation system.The restrictions can be more general or it can describe exactly what tasks you can and cannot perform in your current physical capacity. Often times these restrictions prevent injured workers from performing the vast majority of their prior job functions.
If your claim is “admitted,” meaning your employer has accepted primary liability for your work injury and the employer acknowledges that you sustained a work injury during the course and scope of your employment, then employers have a choice. If they have a “light duty” position available they will offer it to you or they will pay you ongoing wage loss benefits. Positions may include general office work or duties which are not quite as strenuous as your previous job. If you are completely precluded from returning to work as a result of your work injury then the wage loss benefit to which are you owed is called Temporary Total Disability benefits (“TTD”). TTD benefits are paid out at a rate of 2/3 of your average weekly wage, generally an average of the 26 weeks worked before the date you were injured.
Clients often ask if they can choose to receive TTD benefits rather than returning to work in a different position. This option is attractive because it gives injured workers time to recuperate from their injury and sometimes, even sitting at a desk can be painful. If your employer offers you light duty, generally you must accept this accommodated position. Not accepting an “offer of gainful employment” as defined under the Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Act can have dire effects on your future entitlement to wage loss benefits.
Failing to accept a suitable job offer as defined in the Minnesota Work Comp Act prevents you from receiving future Temporary Total Disability benefits. But, employers may offer you light duty work that is not suitable as defined under the statute. You should have an experienced work comp attorney review your case and assess whether or not this accommodated position is truly suitable. To assist with this process, we request that our clients be assigned a Qualified Rehabilitation Consultant (“QRC”) as soon as possible. QRCs act as an intermediary to help assess if a position is truly suitable for injured workers. They can perform on-site job analysis and are valued participates in the return-to-work process.
An offer of “gainful employment” may be unsuitable if:
- it requires an employee to relocate
- it is outside your physical restrictions
- requires a “substantial alteration” in your lifestyle
- requires you to move from day-time shifts to night-shifts
It’s also very important to note that what’s generally good practice in a work comp claim may ruin your chances of receiving PERA Duty Disability benefits. If you are firefighter, police officer, corrections officer, or paramedic applying for PERA Duty Disability benefits, accepting a light duty position can have unintended consequences on the approval of your PERA Duty Disability application. If you have both a work comp and PERA Duty Disability claim you should consult with attorneys who extensively practice in both areas of the law. Ask your attorney how many PERA cases they have handled, if they've taken them to formal hearings, and how will one area affect your benefits in another area.
Employers often use light duty positions to encourage employees to quit by offering highly undesirable positions. Consult with an attorney to asses your options sooner rather than later. Don’t let them use this as a tool against you. We can help you know your rights, speak up, and ask questions.
Contact the experienced attorneys at Meuser Law Office, P.A. for a free, no-obligation consultation.