I was hurt at work in DC. Does my company have to provide light duty?

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Light Duty in DC Workers Comp Cases

In workers compensation cases in D.C., Maryland and Virginia, it’s up to your company to provide light duty if you can't do your regular job because of your injury but your doctor says you can do some work, or work with restrictions - in other words, it’s the employer's choice to offer light duty work - and some 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.

Other companies may create a light duty job or have a light duty program. A construction company could have a construction worker with a shoulder injury sit in the trailer, or make sure everyone wears 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.

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 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.

Light Duty Restrictions and Vocational Rehabilitation

And in DC cases, the workers comp insurance company may start vocational rehabilitation - hiring a vocational specialist to look for jobs for you within your restrictions.  If you are in vocational rehabilitation, please call us - we have a lot to tell you about the process (it is sometimes a sham and the insurance company will use it to cut off your benefits, so be careful). 

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.

Every employer does something different and every case depends on specific factors. So if you have questions, call us at (202) 393-3320.

Frank R. Kearney, Attorney-at-Law
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Experienced DC Workers' Comp, Long Term Disability & Accident Lawyer