If you have been injured on the job, your employer must generally give you time to recover. Depending on the circumstances that caused the injury to occur, you may receive workers' compensation benefits. At some point, your employer may ask you to return on light duty. How do you know if it's right to accept?
What Is a Light Duty Job?
A light duty job involves work such as answering phones, writing letters, or taking on other tasks that don't require heavy lifting. In some cases, light duty means working fewer hours during the day or fewer days during the week. As per Safety Awakenings, “light duty work can include seated work, one-handed work, and lifting restrictions, but it can also be any number of small jobs or tasks that don’t require much strenuous activity.”
When Should You Return to Work?
''When should I return to work?'' is one of the top questions that you may have after being injured. While you may want to return quickly to avoid falling out of favor with your boss or colleagues, this isn't always the best idea. According to Ronald A Ramos, “you have the legal right to take the time you need to recover. If you are not medically ready to perform a light duty job, you are not required to do so.” Typically, when you return to work, you no longer receive workers' compensation benefits. At best, you receive a portion of them while also being compensated for hours worked. Financial and other concerns aside, it is best to return when you feel healthy enough to do so without getting hurt again.
Are Light Duty Jobs Legal?
Yes, light duty work is legal, and employers are required to offer it to those who feel as if they are ready to go back to work. In some cases, it is the first step toward returning to work full-time without any restrictions. You can consult with your doctor to determine when its best to return to work and how to do so without getting hurt.
How Can You Defend Your Rights While on Light Duty?
To defend your rights while on light duty, consult with your attorney or with a union representative. They will be able to tell you more about what employers can do and cannot do while restricted on the job. As a general rule, you cannot be asked to do anything that your doctor has advised against. For example, an employer couldn't tell you to lift 15 pounds when a doctor has said not to lift more than 10.
If you have experienced an injury at work, your top priority should be getting healthy again. While it may be tempting to return to work as soon as possible, there is no obligation to do anything that could result in aggravating the injury or causing a new one.