An injury at work can knock you off your feet for a few days, but oftentimes the injury is not bad enough to prevent you from performing at least some of your work duties. If you can still perform some duties, your employer may offer you light duty. Light duty typically involves a reduction in hours or in pay since full work obligations aren’t being performed, but this loss in income can be offset by filing for workers’ compensation.
However, a number of injured workers have asked if they can just avoid light duty, collect workers’ compensation, and return to work when they are fully healthy. Today, we’re going to explain if you are required to accept light duty if it is offered to you after a work injury in Minnesota.
Light Duty Obligations
For this blog, let’s just assume you have a valid injury claim. Once your employer has been notified of your valid injury claim, they have a couple of options. They can pay you wage loss benefits, or if possible, they can offer you a light duty position. These light duty positions typically involve desk work or very limited physical activity. If the position doesn’t pay as much as your normal position, you’ll also receive wage loss benefits, but if you are too injured to work, you can file for Total Temporary Disability benefits. TTD benefits pay you two-thirds of your normal pay for the duration of your short-term injury.
So instead of accepting light duty and wage loss benefits, can you just take TTD benefits for a month and return to work when you have a completely clean bill of health? Probably not. If your doctor agrees that some tasks are fine, or they only outline certain tasks that your can’t do, like lifting 50 pounds or standing for more than an hour, and your employer offers you a position that accommodates for these restrictions, you’ll likely need to accept the position. If you don’t, you are technically refusing an “offer of gainful employment,” which can make you ineligible for certain wage loss benefits and TTD benefits.
Your Doctor and Lawyer Are Key
A number of injured workers jump at the chance to work even though it’s light duty, but others are concerned that even light duty will lead to pain, discomfort or an aggravation of their injury. If this is the case, your doctor and workers’ compensation lawyer will be your best friend.
For starters, after your injury, you’ll receive medical attention. During this meeting, your doctor will lay out your job restrictions. It is helpful to write down any restrictions or modified tasks they feel you are eligible to complete. It also helps to explain your normal job duties to the doctor so they can greenlight or recommend against certain actions.
Once you have these restrictions, sit down with your work comp lawyer. They will evaluate whether a light duty position is suitable, and they can even set you up with a Qualified Rehabilitation Consultant (QRC) who will perform an on-site-job review to determine your best return-to-work route. By getting written instructions from your doctor, talking with a lawyer and working with a QRC, we can ensure that you are safe to accept a light duty position, or that a refusal won’t impact your benefits. If you have any questions about light duty or work restrictions after a work injury, reach out to our office today.
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