Light duty refers to modified types of work that tends to be less physically strenuous compared to the worker’s duties prior to their injury. Many employers offer it so that the employee can be productive during recovery from their work-related injury.
Receiving Benefits on Light Duty
Any medical expenses incurred due to a work-related illness or injury should be paid by workers’ compensation. There are four other categories of workers’ compensation;
- Permanent Total Disability: Means the employee is unable to earn any wages, and their benefits are equal to 2/3 of the average weekly wages they received at the time of their injury or illness.
- Permanent Partial Disability: Applies when a worker has a permanent impairment, specifically where the worker has lost a body part or the use of a body part or function. The amount of workers’ compensation benefits depends on the severity of loss and areas of the body that are affected. Employers will often offer light duty to workers that fall in this category, since they may be able to perform some modified job functions. If your earnings are reduced due to a permanent impairment, you are still eligible for compensation.
- Temporary Total Disability: Means an employee is temporarily totally disabled and is unable to work.
- Temporary Partial Disability: Applies when a worker loses the use of a body part or function, but only temporarily. Typically in this scenario, you will have work restrictions, but can still perform certain duties. In many cases, employers are able to assign light duties to injured employees that fall in this category. If an employee earns less than they did before they were injured, they are eligible for TPD benefits based on that wage difference.
Temporary Disability benefits usually end when a worker returns to their pre-injury wage, is cleared by their physician, or has reached the threshold of “maximum medical improvement” (MMI) where no further recovery is expected. Permanent Disability benefits are paid for the remainder of the injured worker’s lifetime.
In many cases, workers will have restrictions because of their injuries, but can still perform some duties. If their wages are reduced, workers can continue receiving some compensation while they work on light duty.
Turning Down Light Duty
Under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), an employee is not obligated to accept an employer’s offer of light duty to continue receiving benefits. However, an injured employee who refuses light duty can lose their workers’ compensation benefits.
If you have suffered a work-related injury, discuss your situation with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney who can guide you through the process.