Arm injured male employee working in the office

Light Duty Rights and Requirements

Gerstner Adam Law Dec. 15, 2023

Light-duty work. What is it? And what are your rights and responsibilities around it? Let's dive into these questions. 

Light-duty work is a form of transitional employment offered to injured workers during their recovery period. It's also commonly referred to as modified duty, selective employment, or transitional work. As workers' compensation attorneys, we want people to know how this process works, because you never know when an accident may strike. It's all about accommodating your work restrictions, either by modifying your current position or assigning you a temporary role. This approach allows you to remain productive and financially stable while recovering.  

Your Rights During Light Duty Work

While on light duty, you are still entitled to the same rights and protections as any other employee. This includes protection against discrimination or retaliation for filing a workers' compensation claim.  

You also have the right to reasonable accommodations, such as schedule adjustments or physical modifications, to help you perform your assigned tasks within your medical restrictions. 

It's important to communicate openly with your employer and keep them updated on any changes in your condition or work restrictions. This will help ensure that you receive the necessary support and accommodations to successfully complete your light-duty job. 

Your Responsibilities During Light Duty Work

While on light-duty, you're still an employee of the company. This means that you must fulfill all your duties and responsibilities as if it were any other job. You should report to work on time, adhere to company policies and procedures, and complete tasks assigned to you. Failure to do so could result in disciplinary action, including termination. 

However, it's essential to remember that your duties should align with your medical restrictions. If you feel that a task assigned is beyond your capabilities or could worsen your condition, speak up and communicate with your employer. They should make reasonable accommodations for you. 

How Light Duty Affects Your Workers' Compensation Benefits 

The next question you might ask is, "How does accepting a light-duty job impact my right to workers' compensation benefits?"  

When you accept a light-duty job, your temporary total disability benefits may be reduced or terminated. The reduction varies by state, but don't worry; if the light-duty job pays less than your pre-injury wages, you may still be eligible for temporary partial disability benefits.  

If you find yourself unable to perform the light-duty job despite your best efforts, don’t panic. In most cases, you can have your benefits reinstated. But there may be time limits and requirements for petitioning the state workers' compensation agency, which we can guide you through. 

Do you have to accept a light duty job?

By and large, if your employer offers you a light-duty job that aligns with your medical restrictions, you're generally expected to accept it. 

But there are exceptions. For instance, if the job offered doesn't align with your doctor's guidelines or if it poses potential safety risks, you have every right to decline it. We can't stress this enough: your health and well-being should always come first. If you find yourself in a situation where you're unsure about accepting a light-duty job, don't hesitate to reach out to a workers' comp lawyer in your area. An attorney will be able to assess your situation and provide you with the necessary guidance. 

Post-Recovery: The Impact of Light Duty on Long-Term Employment

After reaching maximum medical improvement, if your condition prevents you from returning to your normal job, your employer may offer a suitable alternative job. It's important to know that failure to accept such a job can result in the loss of permanent disability benefits or the right to vocational rehabilitation. 

For instance, consider a warehouse worker who injures their back and, after their recovery, cannot lift heavy objects anymore. The employer, instead of letting them go, might offer them an opportunity to work in an administrative role, such as tracking inventory or scheduling deliveries. By doing so, the employer is providing a suitable alternative that aligns with the worker's physical limitations, and the employee can continue to earn a living without worsening their condition. However, if the worker declines this offer, they could potentially lose their right to permanent disability benefits or vocational rehabilitation. Every situation is unique, and it's essential to consult with a knowledgeable workers' rights advocate to understand the specifics of your case. 

What Happens if You’re Injured During a Light Duty Job?

If you're injured while performing a light-duty job, you might be feeling overwhelmed and unsure about what to do next.  

First things first, report the injury to your employer immediately. It's crucial for your workers' compensation claim. After that, seek medical attention. No matter what, never delay getting the care you need. 

Now, you might be wondering, "Will this affect my workers' compensation benefits?" Generally, if your new injury is related to your original work injury, you should still be able to receive your benefits. But, every case is unique and it's essential to get professional advice tailored to your situation. 

Enlist Quality Legal Counsel

We understand that all this information might sound overwhelming. But rest assured, we're here to help every step of the way. Our clients throughout Billings, Glendive, Miles City, and Sidney have found these insights immensely helpful in managing their workers' compensation cases. 

Remember, at Gerstner Adam Law, we're not just your lawyers; we're your neighbors, your friends. We're committed to protecting your rights and benefits.