After a job injury, Maryland employees can return to work if their doctors clear them to perform light-duty tasks. Many employers offer light-duty work to defray the cost of providing workers’ comp benefits and help employees transition back to work and, hopefully, their former jobs.

Unfortunately, employers sometimes misuse light-duty provisions by asking employees to return to work prematurely and engage in tasks they cannot safely perform. If you believe your workers’ compensation rights are being violated by a request for you to perform light duties, turn to Trollinger Law LLC for help.

For years, injured workers throughout Maryland and Washington D.C. have turned to our workers’ compensation lawyers to protect their rights and advocate for their interests. We provide compassionate service and aggressive legal representation to clients and push for results that make a difference in their lives.

If you have more questions about light duty in workers’ compensation cases, call or contact us today for a free consultation for a seasoned attorney.

What Are Light Duties at Work?

If you collect workers’ compensation benefits due to a work injury or occupational illness, your employer could ask you to return to work in a light-duty position. Light duties involve a modification of your current job responsibilities that allow you to perform the essential functions of your job within your physical and medical restrictions. A light-duty job may involve you temporarily taking a different role that fits the requirements of your work restrictions.

Employers are not required to modify the tasks of your current job to bring them in line with your work restrictions. Your employer can simply choose to wait until your treating provider clears you to return to your regular job.

An employer cannot require an employee to take a light-duty position that requires tasks inconsistent with the worker’s restrictions. However, if your employer offers you light duties at work that comply with your medical restrictions (and your training, experience, and skills), in most cases, you must return to your job.

How Do Light-Duty Work Restrictions Affect Workers’ Compensation?

Light-duty positions can affect your rights and obligations under the workers’ compensation system. Normally, when your employer offers you to return to work on light duty, you must take that position as long as it follows the restrictions set by your treating provider. This will affect a portion of your workers’ comp benefits.

By returning to work, you start earning income from your employer again. This can impact the wage benefits you receive from workers’ comp. However, light-duty work should not affect the medical benefits you receive from workers’ compensation. Your employer is still obligated to pay for all reasonable treatment for your work-related injury or illness.

Examples of Light Duty and Work Restrictions

Work restrictions and light-duty accommodations usually fall into one or more of three categories:

  • Sedentary/movement restrictions: Limit the amount of time that an employee can be required to walk, stand, or sit
  • Lifting restrictions: Set parameters on the amount of weight that an employee can lift or carry safely
  • One-hand restrictions: Prevent a worker from being required to use or perform certain tasks with a particular hand

Examples of common light-duty work restrictions include:

  • Being allowed to take frequent breaks
  • No kneeling, squatting, or bending over
  • No strenuous physical activity like running, jumping, or climbing
  • No prolonged standing, walking, or sitting. Usually expressed as being allowed to stand, sit, or change positions within a specific time or using chairs or desks of variable height
  • No lifting or carrying objects over a certain weight
  • No repetitive shoulder, elbow, wrist, or hand movements
  • Limitations on the number of hours the employee can in a workday or during a workweek

Common types of light-duty positions offered by employers include:

  • Office or administrative work
  • Clerical tasks
  • Making phone calls or returning emails
  • Cleaning
  • Equipment maintenance
  • Taking inventory
  • Training, monitoring, or supervisory roles
  • Sitting tasks, like operating a forklift or delivery driving
  • Research

Light Duty and Your Workers’ Comp Disability Benefits

If you take on a light-duty position, you may see a reduction in your workers’ comp benefits. Part of your benefits for missing work due to a work injury or occupational illness include temporary disability benefits, which provide partial wage replacement of the average pre-injury income you earned.

If you return to work on light duty, you may start earning income equal to your average pre-injury income or a portion thereof. If you are still earning less than before your work injury or occupational illness, you can still receive workers’ comp benefits for the amount of income you are missing out on.

But, if you earn the same wages you did before your injury (or more), your employer can terminate your temporary disability benefits if you perform light duties and make at least the same amount of income you did before.

Talk to a Workers’ Compensation Lawyer

If you have questions about how light-duty affects your workers’ comp case, Trollinger Law LLC is ready to help. Our knowledgeable workers’ compensation lawyers can discuss your options and ensure that your employer complies with light-duty work laws. Call or contact us today for a free consultation.