If you’ve been injured in a New York workplace accident, after you’ve had time to recover your doctor may tell you that you are cleared for “light duty” work.
What is light duty or restricted work?
What does this mean? It typically means that you are still recovering from your injuries, or you have been classified as partially disabled, which means you can’t do your previous job. However, if you are eligible for light duty it means your doctor thinks you are well enough to perform tasks that are less strenuous than what you were doing before.
If your personal doctor says you can perform light duty work, then your employer is obligated to offer you light duty employment – if they have any such positions available. If you go ahead and accept the light duty work and it pays less than what you were making before, your workers’ compensation benefits should make up the difference.
What if there is no light duty work available – or you don’t want it?
If you are cleared for light duty work but your employer claims that they don’t have any light duty work available that meets your doctor’s restrictions, you may have to find it on your own. It is very important for you to know that if you are cleared for light duty work, you are required to find work within your restrictions. If you are able to work – even if it is just in a reduced capacity – but do not look for work, the NY workers’ comp board can suspend your benefits (although you’ll still be eligible for medical benefits).
Similarly, if you are cleared for light duty work and your employer offers you a light duty position that meets your doctor’s restrictions, but you fail to accept it, your employer and the workers’ comp board may assume that you have voluntarily taken yourself out of the workforce – and this means no more benefits. Remember, you’re get workers’ comp benefits because you CAN’T work – not because you don’t WANT to work.
What if you decide that you don’t want to work anymore and you want to voluntarily remove yourself from the labor market? You must raise the issue before the Law Judge and not on appeal to a Board Panel. If you don’t follow the rules on this one, you risk losing all your benefits.
Restricted work / light duty can be a tricky phase of your NY workers’ comp claim
Finally, understand that your employer is not required to hold your old job for you indefinitely. If the day comes that you are ready and able to go back to work at your full capacity (and your doctor agrees) then they can try to find you another position if your old one has been filled.
Clear as mud? Please don’t hesitate to contact one of our experienced New York workers’ compensation attorneys if you have any questions or concerns about your workers’ comp claim. That is what we are here for.
Markhoff & Mittman, P.C.
14 Mamaroneck Avenue
White Plains, NY 10601
Toll Free: 866-205-2415
Phone: (866) 205-2415
Fax: (914) 946-0810