In workers’ compensation, we often hear the term “light duty.” This is also referred to as modified duty or limited duty. After you are injured at work, your doctor may give you a note letting your employer know you are to work light duty — modified duties of your original job.
But what does that mean, exactly?
And what should you know about it to protect your rights and avoid risking your workers’ compensation case?
A new way to work
Light duty is designed to be less demanding on you — mentally and physically — as your body heals from injury. Depending on your industry and your position with your employer may not be able to offer you a light duty job within the restrictions set forth by your doctor. But with light duty, employers can get you back to work without interfering with your doctor’s treatment plan.
Examples of light duty: Maybe instead of operating heavy machinery, you help with equipment maintenance. If you are in retail, light duty could include inventory as opposed to lifting, bending and helping customers. Office tasks, or monitoring surveillance cameras are light duty in many fields.
Light duty can also mean that an employee works shorter hours than they did before their injury. Or that they work at a slower pace.
Special equipment may be implemented to make light duty possible. Examples would be a lower workstation to accommodate an employee with a back injury, or installation of a temporary ramp while an employee is in a wheelchair after foot surgery.
Compliance is key
Injured workers need to know about the risks regarding light duty and workmen’s compensation.
If a light-duty worker pushes too hard or allows the company to push him or her too hard toward, they can become re-injured — or injure themselves even further. Ensure you respect your physical limitations.
When your company offers light-duty work, you need to be there on the agreed-upon date (and be on time). Ignoring the modified work return date could jeopardize your workers’ compensation benefits. Essentially, if your employer testifies that they offered you of a job that was within your doctor’s light-duty restrictions, the judge deciding your case could determine that you voluntarily limited your income. It could be found that you are not owed any lost wages during the period of your refusal to perform work made available to you within those restrictions.
With light duty, you should abide by the limitations outlined by the doctor and comply with the modified work arrangement your company offers. If either are not to your satisfaction, consult with your attorney ahead of time to learn what your next steps should be. The goal is to keep your workers’ compensation case viable and to keep your healing on track as well.