If you're hurt at work and can't go back to your regular job because of the injury, your doctor may put you on light duty, or give you work restrictions. For example, if you injured your back at work, the doctor may say no lifting over 10 pounds. For a knee injury or after recovering from knee surgery, the restrictions may be no climbing ladders, no standing more than 10 minutes, etc. And a shoulder injury could restrict you from using that arm.
It's up to the doctor to decide on restrictions based on the exam, testing, how you are feeling, etc.
But if you can't do your regular job because of those work restrictions, what do you do?
In workers compensation cases in D.C., Maryland and Virginia, its up to your employer to provide light duty - in other words, its the employer's choice to offer light duty work. Some companies do but others don't.
Some employers have true light duty jobs available that they can move an injured worker to - and if so, that injured worker would receive his regular salary instead of workers comp benefits for the time he is on light duty.
A lot of union contractors don't have any light duty - and union workers can read more about a free guide to workers compensation for union members by clicking here.
Other companies may create a light duty job or have a light duty program. Sometimes a construction company will have a construction worker with a shoulder injury sit in the trailer, or stand on the jobsite and make sure everyone is wearing a hard hat. A transit employer could have injured workers watch a parking lot. Again, the injured employee would be paid his regular salary instead of workers compensation benefits.
One thing to keep in mind is that even if you are receiving your standard hourly rate in a light duty job, you may be owed additional workers compensation benefits (called temporary partial disability). This is because your average weekly wage (which includes overtime, bonuses and may include income from a second job) could be more than your standard hourly rate, or you may be working fewer hours on light duty.
What if your company doesn't have light duty work and can't make up a light duty job for you?
They have to pay your full workers compensation benefits, also called temporary total disability, or TTD, just as if your doctor said you could not do any work at all because of the injury.
One thing to watch out for if you have a Virginia workers compensation case - if you are not under an Award, you must look for light duty work within your restrictions (called marketing your residual capacity) even if you will be released to your regular duty job with your company in a short time.
The bottom line with light duty is it depends on the employer.
But the key to any light duty job is to make sure it is within your doctor's restrictions - you don't want to do anything to risk further injury or delay the recovery from your injury.
And not only do the laws vary in D.C., Maryland and Virginia, every employer does something different and every case depends on specific factors. So if you have questions, call us at (202) 393-3320 and order your FREE copy of Mr. Kearney's book Protect Your Rights: The Ultimate Guide to Workers Compensation.
Donahoe Kearney, LLP
1634 Eye Street N.W.
Phone: (202) 393-3320
Fax: (202) 393-3324