Light Duty and Other Return-to-Work Options in Ohio

Light Duty and Other Return-to-Work Options in Ohio

When you’ve been injured at work, your ability to perform your job duties may be limited. The Ohio workers’ compensation system provides benefits—Temporary Total Disability payments (TTD)—for injured workers who are unable to return to work at all. However, the workers’ compensation system and the insurers responsible for payment of workers’ compensation benefits favor an employee returning to work to the degree he or she is able.

That means that the treating physician will often release an injured worker to return to work with restrictions. The specific restrictions depend on the nature and severity of the injury and how far along the path to recovery the worker is. In some cases, the injured employee may feel pressured to take on more work than he or she is ready for.

Four Things You Should Know about Returning to Work with Restrictions

In theory, returning to work with restrictions is a middle ground that benefits the employee, the company, and the insurer. The employee can increase his or her income by returning to work, while the insurance company pays out less in benefits.

However, the process doesn’t always run smoothly, and there are serious pitfalls for employees who don’t understand their rights and obligations. Here are a few things every injured employee should know about returning to work on light duty, with limited hours, or with other restrictions.

  1. If you’re not able to perform your regular job, your employer is not obligated to find or create a job you can do with your restrictions. If the employer doesn’t have alternative work for you that is compliant with your medical restrictions, you will generally continue to receive TTD payments while you recover.
  2. If you are offered light duty work that would allow you to return to work part-time or in a different capacity, declining that work will typically terminate your eligibility for TTD payments, leaving you without income during your recovery.
  3. If the replacement work offered pays less than your regular job, either because it is a lower-paying work assignment or because you are only able to work part-time, you will be eligible for partial benefits.  These benefits are equal to 2/3 of the difference between your original pay and your restricted duty pay.
  4. Doctors don’t always get it right. Every patient’s tolerance and recovery time is a bit different, as is every work environment. In addition, occupational medicine doctors who routinely handle workers’ compensation cases are under pressure from employers and insurers to get injured employees back to work. If your employer is complying with restrictions but you are still having trouble with the work, you may need to see the doctor again to review your restrictions.

When in Doubt, Get Help

Unfortunately, workers’ compensation insurance carriers don’t always act in the best interests of injured workers. If you’ve been injured on the job and have been offered light duty, modified responsibilities, reduced hours, or other return to work conditions that you feel unable to fulfill, or you have returned to work and discovered that the physician’s restrictions are insufficient to allow you to heal and rehabilitate, don’t assume that you’re powerless.

You owe it to yourself to explore the options available to you. However, be aware that there are serious consequences if you refuse an opportunity to return to work with restrictions. Talk to an experienced workers’ compensation attorney and make sure you thoroughly understand your rights and obligations before making any decisions.

The information presented in this post is not legal advice and does not form a lawyer/client relationship. Laws and circumstances can differ and change.
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