I often speak to people who have been placed on some sort of light duty work restrictions by their doctor after a workers compensation injury. Some of the questions that people often have in this situation are:
- Does my company have to provide me with a job I can do?
- Do I have to accept a light duty job offered by my company?
- What happens if I go back to work and cannot do the job?
- Can my company fire me after I go back to work?
- What if I get reinjured trying the light duty job?
In a Georgia workers compensation case, light duty job offers create a lot of confusion because there are special rules that apply. To try to help clarify some confusion, this article will provide some information about those rules.
Does my company have to provide me with a light duty job?
Georgia’s workers compensation law does not require your company to provide you with a light duty job. In most situations, your company has the option of providing you with a light duty job or paying you weekly workers compensation benefits known as temporary total disability.
Other laws could potentially require your company to try to bring you back to work. One law that applies to some people who suffer workers compensation injuries is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In certain situations, the ADA could require your employer to make accommodations to provide work that is suitable to your work restrictions. Other laws could potentially require your employer to accommodate you as well.
Do I have to go back to a light duty job that my employer or the insurance company offers me?
No one can force you to return to work at a light duty job. But, the insurance company may be able to stop paying you workers compensation benefits if you refuse a job that is offered in the right way and approved by your authorized treating physician.
The insurance company may send you something called a Form WC-240 and/or a Form WC-240a. These forms may include where your doctor actually reviewed and signed off on a job.
If you receive this information, be sure that you let your attorney know. They can affect your benefits. If you do not have a workers compensation attorney, you will want to consider hiring one because Georgia’s light duty return to work rules can be tricky. If you do not understand them well, there is a good chance that your benefits might be suspended or reduced.
What happens if I go back to work and cannot do the job?
Part of Georgia’s special rules on light duty jobs focus on what happens with your workers compensation benefits when you attempt a light duty job but cannot continue doing it. This rule focuses on how long you attempt to do the job and determines whether your workers compensation temporary total disability benefits get restarted if you cannot do the job.
One part of this rule focuses on how long you attempt the job. That part looks at whether you attempted the job for at least eight full hours or one scheduled workday, whichever is greater. This means that you have to attempt the job for at least 8 hours. If your schedule workday is greater than 8 hours, then you have to attempt it for at least one scheduled workday. There is a second part of this same rule that focuses on what happens if you attempt the job more than 15 scheduled workdays.
If you have to stop work after working more than your 8 hours/1 scheduled workday but not more than 15 scheduled workdays, then your workers compensation benefits should be reinstated by the insurer company when you come out of work. But, be aware that this only happens on a temporary basis. The insurance company still has the opportunity to try to go to court and suspend your benefits if they successfully prove that the job is suitable and available.
If you work less than the 8 hours/one scheduled workday or more than the 15 scheduled workdays, it can be much harder to get your benefits restarted on a temporary basis. You could have to go to court to try to get them restarted.
Can my company fire me after I go back to work?
Probably. Georgia is a right to work state. In most situations, people are employees at will which means that companies can fire them for a good reason, a bad reason, or no reason at all (with the exception of certain prohibited reasons).
This article discuss more about being fired on light duty after a workers compensation injury.
What if I get reinjured on the light duty job?
The particular facts of your case are often going to matter a lot in this situation because Georgia has some strange rules about injuries after you return to work. In many situations, the main question is whether you have a new case with a new date of accident or whether your injury will relate back to your original date of accident (referred to as a change in condition).
The decision about whether it is a “new injury” or a “change in condition” can affect your case a lot. Sometimes, different laws applies depending on which date of injury is used. Also, since Georgia law limits how long you can receive workers compensation benefits, a new injury may provide greater eligibility for you to receive workers compensation benefits if you need medical treatment or are unable to work.