Workers’ compensation attorney Scott Schulman explains what light duty is, what happens and how to move forward if your employer doesn’t have a job for you anymore due to your work injury.
Petrillo: What happens? What happens then to a worker who has a job that involves heavy lifting, heavy work, grunt work, has a back injury, perhaps needs surgery. The doctor says, “Okay, you’ve gone as far as you can go. You’re not going to get any better. You’re released to work, not to what you used to do, but light duty.”
What are their rights? What happens then to the worker? What if he goes back to work and his employer says, “Well, we don’t have a job for you like that, because you didn’t go to college. You don’t have a master’s degree. You’re not a lawyer.” What happens to them then, then?
Schulman: Well, light duty is two different types, I guess. Why you’re getting medical treatment? If a doctor, if you’ve never been out of work, and he says, “You can go back to work, light duty,” with certain restrictions, no lifting, no bending something along those lines, which is your typical job duties, your employer has a responsibility to either provide work within those accommodations, within those restrictions.
If they can accommodate those restrictions, you are required to go to work.
Schulman: Sometimes if you have a heavy duty job, they will afford a position for you in an office setting, where you’re sitting down, doing some paperwork, doing some filing, answering telephone calls. That’s legitimate, that’s appropriate. You would be required to go to work and do that type of work, until the doctor says, “Now, I think you’ve healed as much as you’re going to heal. Now you can go back to work full duty,” and they go back and they’re able to do their regular job. They may have some problems…
Petrillo: What happens in a situation where the employer either can’t or won’t do that if they don’t have a job that is light duty for the injured person? What happens then?
Schulman: Yes. If you’re on or getting medical treatment, then that same circumstance arises. The employer says, “You know what? We don’t have anything to accommodate those restrictions.” In that circumstance, the person would then remain out of work, and they would be entitled to light temporary disability benefits provided by the insurance company that I described earlier.
Petrillo: The temporary disability benefits would continue if the worker is released to work light duty, but the employer doesn’t have a light duty job for them.
Schulman: That’s correct. Yes.
Petrillo: If the employer has a light duty job, then they have to go into that light duty job, until perhaps they can eventually return to the exertional position.
Schulman: Yes, yes.
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