You are under no obligation to return to the same job—or even the same employer or line of work—you had when you were injured and began collecting workers' comp, so yes, you can change jobs once you have been cleared to work. It can be confusing to understand your eligibility for returning to work, but our Ohio workers' compensation attorney can help you make sure you are within your rights and not violating Ohio law when you accept a new job.
You Cannot Work While Collecting Workers' Comp
To be clear: With a few very specific exceptions, it is almost always illegal to work while collecting workers' comp wage replacement benefits in Ohio, even if it is just part-time.Workers' comp replaces the wages you cannot earn because a workplace injury or illness has left you physically unable to complete tasks required of your job. It makes sense that you cannot collect the benefits and also get another paying job. However, if you have been cleared by your physician of record (POR) to work, you can accept a new job if it accommodates any restrictions your doctor has imposed.
Why You Might Want to Change Jobs
If you were injured at work or you became ill after being exposed to a dangerous substance on the job, it is understandable that you might want to change careers after recovering and being cleared to work. If the workers' comp claim process was difficult for you because your employer pushed back, pressured you not to file, or threatened retaliation, you would also have a good reason not to return to the same company when you can work. Sometimes, after a long break recovering from a disability, people want to learn new skills and get a fresh start. There is also the possibility that the job you left no longer exists or that you were terminated for a cause other than your workers' comp claim. There, you would have to look for a new job.
Some Ohioans cleared for work after collecting workers' comp have physical limitations, so they must find different work. The Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC) offers these options as part of its return-to-work program:
- Transitional work. Provides real job duties for no more than two or three months to help an injured worker progress back to their original job.
- Modified work. Adapts or alters a traditional work environment to meet the needs of an employee with limitations.
- Light duty. Reduces the physical capabilities required to complete job requirements. These light-duty tasks might be assigned on a temporary or permanent basis.
- Alternative work. This might be offered to workers who are permanently restricted from their original job but with other work-related abilities.
If your original employer cannot offer these options, but your POR has determined you can do some work for gainful employment, you might have to look for a new job that can accommodate you. However, you must make sure that the duties assigned to you are within the scope of the work you have been cleared to do. Not every employer in Ohio will be sympathetic to your cause. Modified and light-duty jobs cost employers eventually, and they might pressure you to take on more than you can handle given your disability. Your attorney can help you meet the requirements coming from the BWC while protecting your health and safety.
Get More Helpful Advice From Monast Law Office
With over 30 years of experience helping injured workers in Ohio get the workers' comp benefits they deserve, I can help you build the best claim. If you have been cleared for work but aren't sure what that requires you to do, contact Monast Law Office to discover how we can help. Learn more by requesting a free copy of our book, The Worker's Guide to Injury Compensation in Ohio, then fill out our online contact form or call our Upper Arlington office at 614-334-4649 to get started.