Light Duty Work & Restrictions Under Workers’ Comp Law

If you are injured on the job and your doctor says you can return to work with restrictions, your employer may offer you light-duty work.


What Is Considered Light-Duty Work?

Light duty work (or modified duty work) means that your employer will place you in a less physically demanding job until you are healed. Alternatively, your employer might alter your existing job to fit within the restrictions set forth by your doctor.

However, some employers push their employees beyond the restrictions set forth by the doctor. If this is the case, it is important to tell your doctor and make an incident report with your employer. You want to do everything you can to protect yourself. One pitfall that a lot of injured employees get trapped in is pushing themselves to get back to their regular job duty too fast and sustaining further injury.

If you feel as though the company doctor is only looking out for the companies best interest, ask to be seen by another doctor on the panel list. If there is no panel list, choose a doctor who specializes in the type of injury you sustained. When and if you have questions, contact a workers’ comp lawyer to answer your questions.

Light Duties Defined Under Workers’ Comp Law

When used in regard to workers’ compensation law, the term ‘light duty’ has many meanings. The most common meaning of light-duty refers to work that is physically or mentally less demanding than normal job duties on a temporary or permanent basis.

Sometimes organizations refer to the term ‘light duty’ when an employee is exempt from performing job functions that they are unable to perform because of a disability. ‘Light duty’ may also consist of particular positions that are less physically straining or mentally demanding, that were positions specifically created for the purpose of providing alternative work for employees who, oft due to physical or mental disability, are unable to perform some or all routine duties.

The term ‘light duties’ is most often associated with the workers’ compensation law, and thus the first definition is the most frequent use of the term light duties.

Examples of Light Duty & Work Restrictions

Light duty, as defined above, is a modified version of your old job or a completely different job, all based on the idea that it is physically or mentally less demanding than your normal job duties based on your disability or your work injury. The light-duty jobs may consist of doing less physical labor, working slower, or working shorter hours, etc.

Here are some examples of light-duty work:

  • Taking inventory
  • Performing administrative tasks
  • Supervising job sites
  • Working at a desk
  • Security monitoring

Workers who have been injured may still be capable of these tasks, but not those more physically demanding, like lifting or moving supplies, carrying work tools or climbing a ladder.

Light Duty & Your Workers’ Comp Benefit Amount

Your light-duty work can affect the workers’ compensation benefits that you are receiving. The benefits that you receive depend upon a few different things. 

If you switch to light-duty work, plus:

  • Make the same amount or more money than before your injury, your payments for lost wages will not continue.
  • Make less money than prior to your injury, you will receive lost wage payments in the form of partial disability.

So if you did manual labor, got injured, went on workers’ compensation benefits and got a desk job making more money than before, your lost wage payments would stop. If you took a desk job and made less money, you lost wage payments would continue as partial disability benefits.

You do not have to work light-duty jobs that exceed the medical restrictions set by your doctor. If you so choose not to take a light-duty job that accommodates your medical restrictions, the employer can request a workers’ compensation judge to terminate or modify the benefits you receive. If your employer does not offer a light-duty job, you will continue to receive your workers’ compensation benefits.

Act Promptly When Offered Light Duty Work

When offered employment as light-duty or modified duty, injured workers ought to act promptly. If an employee is expected to on a given date, refusing to do so could endanger the employee’s workers’ compensation benefits. Those receiving workers’ compensation benefits are free to request an extension of the starting date or time, but if it is not granted, they had better have a very good reason for failing to show at work.

If it is granted and the employee still does not show up for work on time, the employer has the legal right to withdraw the offer, and the workers’ compensation benefits may be modified or terminated outright. If you are concerned about the outcome of accepting light-duty work or have any questions on modified duty and its implications. Contacting PA workers’ compensation lawyers, like the law firm of Krasno, Krasno, & Owundinjo, are able to help and answer your questions.


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