As a California employee, you know that sustaining any kind of injury at work can be incredibly difficult and stressful, whether it occurs because of repetitive stress or an abrupt accident. You will be happy to know that workers’ compensation benefits are available to all injured employees. This makes sure you aren’t left with hefty out-of-pocket medical bills or lost wages.
In many cases, if you suffer a serious work injury or become sick, your California employer may consider offering you a modified duty assignment or modified work until you have completely recovered. It is worth noting that such an arrangement is usually beneficial to you and your employer.
In most workers’ compensation cases, workers are expected to remain on their jobs if it’s determined they can safely carry out the modified work.
You may know that navigating the complex workers’ compensation claims process in California can be difficult. This is especially true when you go up alone against your employer and their insurance company. Note that depending on your work injury and the overall recovery process, your doctor or treating physician might clear you to return to work with some medical restrictions.
It is best to hire a competent advocate when your doctor has cleared you to resume work with temporary medical restrictions to protect your rights under the California workers’ comp law.
What is Modified Work?
We can define modified work, also called light duty, as an offer for a temporary work assignment that an employer makes to a worker who’s recovering from a workplace injury or illness and has received medical clearance from a treating physician to resume work with specific limitations.
As you can see, modified duty or work is usually a temporary adjusted work assignment that accommodates a worker’s physical limitations while recovering from the work injury.
Alternatively, your California employer may alter your current job to fit within the medical restrictions imposed by your doctor.
Temporary Work Restrictions
Most injured workers in California are able to resume work or return to work after a work injury. Note that whether or not an injured employee can return to work in some capacity is usually determined by the treating physician.
It is worth noting that the treating physician might authorize you to return to standard work or resume work with some work restrictions and limitations. However, keep in mind that your treating physician can’t make this vital decision without first understanding the job duties that you performed at the time of your injury.
As a result, you should accurately communicate your job duties and responsibilities to your treating physician. As an employee, you can’t determine the limitations of your work; keep in mind that employers are only bound by the report of a doctor.
According to California’s workers’ compensation system, your employer can’t force you to return to work if your treating physician or doctor has determined that you shouldn’t perform any work at all because of the injury. Thus it is important to tell your doctor about the modified work the employer wants to offer and ask the doctor if the work complies with the restrictions.
Do You have to Follow Your Doctor’s Orders?
If you are an injured worker, you have to follow your doctor’s medical advice and orders. This is important as it shows you’re doing all you can in order to get better. Your doctor will likely layout all precautions necessary regarding your work injury and returning to work. For example, they might restrict you to light-duty work or use adaptive equipment.
In many cases, both parties can easily manage these limitations. However, note that this isn’t always the case.
Do You Have to Accept Modified Work?
While no one can compel you to return to work for modified duty or a light-duty job, the insurance company might be able to stop your employment benefits if you refuse appropriate, light-duty work that your employer offers you. If possible or feasible, trying out the modified or light duty job is likely your best option in these cases. Again you can your doctor to protect you by requesting his or her opinion of the work the employer feels is offering as modified work.
Examples of Modified Duty and Temporary Work Restrictions
Note that the light-duty job you have to perform may mean doing less physical labor, working shorter hours, working slower, etc.
Some common examples of modified work are:
Performing various administrative tasks
Supervising work sites; and
What Happens if You Can’t Perform or Refuse Light Duty?
Usually, you have to attempt your light-duty work for at least 8 hours for 15 workdays before deciding that you cannot perform the job. Note that if you try this job for less than 8 hours, it may become much more difficult to get your temporary benefits reinstated. As an injured worker, if you refuse modified work, you may not receive any disability payments for your lost wages.
If the injured employee believes that the modified work is too demanding or difficult, you can ask your doctor to change your work restrictions. If your doctor does this, your employer will need to make you a new job offer.
Keep in mind that if your California employer doesn’t make a temporary modified job offer that complies with your restritions, you will receive temporary disability.
Disputes about Modified Work
Sometimes, employers aren’t aware of or do not take an injured employee’s physical limitations or pain level seriously. As a result, your employer may offer modified work or a light-duty job that does not comply with your temporary work restrictions. Sometimes, your employer may ask you to do more than what your medical restrictions warrant.
Keep in mind that even if the injured employee complains, a California employer may simply think that an injured employee is falsely claiming that the light-duty job or modified work is too strenuous or demanding.
Note that whatever the injured worker or employer believes, it is up to the physician or doctor to determine the injured employee’s ability to work.
Get Help from an Experienced West Coast Workers’ Compensation Attorney
There is no doubt that contacting a competent workers’ comp lawyer in California is important once your employer refuses to provide work that complies with your temporary work restrictions. Did you know that this may lead to a legal claim against your company or other remedies?
As work restrictions can raise some vexing issues for sick or injured workers, you should always contact a trained workers’ compensation attorney in California if your employer isn’t accommodating your temporary work restrictions. You may be entitled to more workers’ comp benefits than you realize.
Get the advice of a reliable workers’ compensation lawyer about how temporary work restrictions impact your rights under California’s workers’ comp system.