If you’re hurt on the job, you may be able to do some – but not all – of your job duties. You may want to return to work. On the other hand, your employer may be pressuring you to return to work and do things that will further hurt your injury.
When you work with restrictions on your job duties, it’s called light duty. When is light duty offered to an injured worker? Does the worker have to accept it? How can the worker challenge it if they can’t perform the required tasks?
Our Atlanta workers’ compensation lawyers explain light duty work.
Understanding Light Duty in Workers’ Compensation
What is light duty in workers’ compensation?
Light duty in workers’ compensation is when an injured worker continues in their employment with modified job duties. Their assigned tasks are modified, so they are unlikely to injure themselves further while still being able to work in some capacity.
How does light duty work in workers’ compensation?
Light duty allows an injured worker to return to work in a limited capacity. The person works in a less-demanding role, or their job duties are altered. As the person receives medical treatment, their care provider may authorize them to return to work.
If the employer can provide a role that accommodates restrictions, the employee must return to work. The injured worker does not return to work if the employer doesn’t have a job that complies with the restrictions.
Examples of Light-Duty Restrictions
Appropriate light duty restrictions depend on the nature of the injury. Here are some examples of restrictions that may be appropriate for an injured worker.
- Lifting heavy objects
- Use of fingers and fine motor control
- Standing or sitting for long periods of time
- Frequent breaks
- Performing “desk duty’ instead of being a part of the operation
- Doing inventory rather than fulfilling orders
- Cleaning rather than lifting
- Shorter hours
- Working slower
What’s appropriate for light duty depends on the nature of the work. In some jobs, the person can still do most of the tasks and avoid the ones that are harmful to the injury. In other situations, there may be specific roles for someone on light duty work. For example, in construction or industrial work, a person on light duty may not be able to lift heavy objects, but they may be able to clean the work site.
Georgia Workers’ Compensation Light-Duty Laws and FAQs
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-240 and Georgia Board Rule 240 create laws and regulations for light duty work in the Georgia workers’ compensation system.
What happens if the injured worker refuses light duty?
If an injured employee refuses light duty, they are not entitled to workers’ compensation benefits except for permanent disability compensation.
Who authorizes the injured person to return to work?
The authorized treating physician decides if an employee can return to work and what restrictions are appropriate. Once they identify the necessary restrictions, the employer may offer a job that meets the restrictions.
What if the employee refuses light duty?
If an employee refuses light duty, or if they attempt it for fewer than eight hours or one workday, whatever is more, the employer may suspend the employee’s workers’ compensation benefits. The employer must fill out a form and provide supporting documentation.
I refused light duty, and my employer stopped my benefits! What can I do?
If your employer stops your benefits, you can challenge the decision. If you didn’t attempt light duty, you have the burden to prove that you are entitled to benefits. Don’t wait to contact us.
I’m not sure light duty will work. Can I try it?
Georgia law allows an employee to attempt light duty. If you attempt light duty for at least eight hours or one scheduled workday, whichever is more, but you can’t do the job for more than 15 days, your benefits are reinstated. The employer has the burden to show that you are not entitled to continue to receive benefits.
How does pay work when a person is on light duty?
If a person can earn what they earned before while working light duty, their wage benefits discontinue. If the person earns less than they earned before, they receive a reduced amount to compensate them for a portion of the difference.
If you’re able to work with restrictions, you should accept light duty. Not only does it benefit you financially, but you can lose your workers’ compensation benefits if you refuse accommodations that comply with your restrictions.
Georgia Light-Duty Workers’ Compensation Forms
This form is the employer’s notice to the employee that they have been authorized to return to work. The form states the basic information and lists the physician’s restrictions on the person’s job duties. Income reduction information is included after 52 or 78 weeks.
Form WC-240 makes an offer of suitable employment to the employee. The form states the person’s essential duties and job title. It states hours and days of assigned work. There is a notice to the person that refusal to accept light duty may result in termination of benefits. The employer must include the required attachments.
Form WC-240a undertakes a detailed analysis of the injured person’s job duties. The schedule and pace of work are discussed as well as the various motions like lifting, carrying, pushing, and pulling. Equipment and necessary tools are listed, and any special considerations are noted, like vision and environmental conditions for work. The authorized treating physician signs that they are releasing the person to the job with restrictions, modifications, and limitations noted on the form.
Lawyers for Light Duty in Workers’ Compensation Claims
Do you have questions about light duty? Do you disagree with what your employer is asking you to do? Our workers’ compensation lawyers in Atlanta can help.
We are an experienced team providing legal representation in workers’ compensation claims. We understand the regulations for light duty, and we are prepared to fight for your rights.