There are dozens of vagaries when it comes to all the different workers’ compensation laws across the United States. There are nearly as many different types of situations that can develop when someone ends up injured while at work. One such instance, being offered light-duty work by your employer when you are too injured to return to the same position you held prior to your injury, can be reasonably complex – especially when you don’t want to perform the role your employer offers you. Here’s what you need to know about turning down light-duty work if you don’t want it and how that can affect your workers’ compensation claim.
Getting Employees Back to Work
In most states, it’s a stated goal of the workers’ compensation program to return employees back to work in at least some capacity, where possible. In some states, such as California, at one time there were laws on the books meant to provide incentives to employers who make accommodations to employees by offering them alternative or modified work positions in the event that their injuries preclude them from working their original role. While this is no longer the case in California, other states like Nevada may have similar laws on the books that encourage injured workers to get back to work.
In some cases, it’s enough just for an employer to offer the alternative work to receive a reduction in the amount of disability benefits they need to pay to the worker, regardless of whether the employee takes their boss up on the offer. In others, employers are hit with a penalty in the form of increased benefits paid to the injured employee if they don’t at least offer an alternative position. While it’s up to you, as the injured employee, to take the job or not, whether you do or not might change the amount of benefits you receive.
The Consequences of the Decision
Unfortunately, if you do turn down an offer of light duty or modified work from your employer, this may have negative effects on your eligibility for supplemental job displacement benefits, which are routinely made available to injured employees to cover costs of training programs or school tuition in order to enter a different line of work. In states that make it a requirement to take modified work offers to gain this funding, you won’t be able to receive it if you reject the offer. You also might not gain the funding if your alternative work doesn’t involve some or all of the following:
• Staying in the new position for at least an entire year.
• The new position meeting your medical limitations and/or restrictions.
• The pay associated with this new position isn’t less than 85 percent of your original role.
• Your worksite has to be close enough for a “reasonable” commute.
In the event that your light-duty position meets these requirements and you decide to turn it down, your main workers’ compensation benefits won’t suffer – but you won’t be able to access any of the funds available for new job training.