In some cases, returning to work might become a complex ordeal for workers who sustained a temporary total disability. For example, a worker might not be completely recovered from an injury, but their physician might clear them to return to work with light-duty restrictions.
There are a lot of details involved in the process of returning to work and obtaining light-duty restrictions. Workers should consult experienced attorneys to learn more about these details and their benefits, however here are some essential things that injured workers should know.
What are light-duty restrictions?
Some workers are often able to return to work, even if they are still in the process of recovery. Light or modified duty restrictions essentially provide recovering workers with work that is less taxing, both mentally and physically – if their employer has such work available.
Physicians recommend the restrictions workers should adhere to, such as not lifting anything over 50 pounds, or even working with sedentary restrictions after a severe back injury.
What other details should workers know?
In the cases where employers have an offer of light-duty work available, there are a few things that workers should know:
- Injured workers should explain in detail the nature and requirements of their employment to their physician, in order for a physician to provide the most appropriate restrictions. The restrictions must be made in writing and provide a timeframe for the duration of said restrictions.
- Upon receiving a modified duty note from a physician, the injured worker should provide the note to their employer and inquire if any positions are available.
- Even if any injured worker believes an employer does not have light duty, the injured worker still has the responsibility of contacting their employer to inquire about accommodations.
- If an Employer is unable or unwilling to accommodate an injured worker, that injured may be entitled to ongoing benefits while they remain out of work recovering to full duty.
- Additionally, should an employer provide accommodations, but the injured worker earns less than their pre-accident wage, the injured workers may be entitled to Temporary Partial Disability, which is one-half the difference between their prior wage and the current light-duty wage. (Maryland Code, Labor & Employment §9-615).
- Injured workers must continue to receive light duty notes from their physicians until their physician releases them to full duty. Failure to provide an updated note may permit an employer to rescind the provided accommodations without penalty.
As demonstrated, there are a lot of different scenarios that may play out when an injured worker is able to return to work in a modified capacity. There is no one size, fits all approach. Therefore, it is critical for an injured worker to understand their rights and options under the law.
Furthermore, employers and their insurance representatives may pressure workers to return to work full duty or in a less than modified capacity. Such situations can be dangerous to an injured worker’s health and recovery. Ultimately, when faced with the decision to return to work, it is important for individuals to have experienced representation that will look out for their best interest, rather than the bottom of line of an employer or insurance company.