Probably, but it depends on a few factors.
If you were awarded temporary total disability benefits after a workplace injury in Ohio, your employer might offer you a short-term job that accommodates the restrictions imposed by your injury while you recover. You are almost always obligated to accept this light-duty or modified job, but there are a few exceptions. Unfortunately, “boring” is not a reasonable excuse for refusing to accept a modified work offer, but if the job was not offered in good faith, you might have a valid reason for rejecting it.
Rules Your Employer Must Follow for Offering a Modified Job
Most companies want to get injured workers back to work quickly because it saves them money in workers’ comp premiums. While they cannot force you to accept the job that they have created for you, you will likely lose your workers’ comp benefits if you don’t take it and return to work.
The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) is vague about the requirements for modified work, which leaves a crack in the door for potentially arguing that you should not have to accept the work. Under Ohio law, a light-duty or modified job offer must meet these requirements:
- Suitable employment. Your doctor will assess the physical limitations caused by your injury and may release you to work with certain restrictions. For example, after knee surgery, you might not stand while you work. Your modified job offer must be “suitable” by accounting for any restrictions imposed by your doctor—both in the description and in fact. If you accept a light-duty job because it accommodates your limitations and then find that your employer did not honor the agreement or has been gradually increasing your duties before you are ready to do them, you could have grounds to go back on leave.
- Within a reasonable proximity of your home. While the wording is vague—what is “reasonable?”—if your employer sends you to do light-duty work in another location, it cannot be a burdensome distance for you. For example, if you worked in an Amazon warehouse and your light-duty job is in an Amazon business office wo hours from your house, that should not be considered reasonable.
- Made in good faith. Finally, the light-duty work must be offered in good faith. This is another vague term that can lead to an argument before a judge. Basically, it means that when the employer offers you a light-duty position, they are acting with an honest intent to follow through and have no plans to change the arrangement or change the terms you agreed to. Good faith could also mean that the job is not just a menial task with no actual purpose.
So, while you can’t reject a job simply because it’s boring (most light-duty and modified jobs are pretty low-key and repetitive) if any of these requirements are not met by your employer, you might have grounds to reject the job.
What Are Examples of Jobs Offered in Bad Faith?
Proving that your employer acted in bad faith could be difficult. If the case gets to a hearing, the employer will claim acted in good faith and that they have met the agreement, even if it’s not what you expected. Often, made-up jobs consisting of useless busywork could fail the good faith requirement, but not always.
Two Ohio appellate court decisions illustrate how rulings can come down on both sides.
Ohio Supreme Court Ruling in Favor of Employee
In a 2019 case, a worker with foot and ankle injuries accepted a position watching training videos on a computer and sorting paperwork. However, his employer made him sit in a cafeteria in full view of other workers with nothing to do. The Ohio Supreme Court ruled in favor of the worker, saying that the employer failed the good faith requirement.
Appellate Court Finds for the Employer
In another recent case, an employee of a staffing agency sprained her knee and was released to work with restrictions two weeks later. The employer offered her a seated position in one of their offices, but the worker refused the job, saying she was unavailable during the hours that were offered. The appellate court ruled in favor of the employer, finding they made the offer in good faith and the worker’s rejection was unrelated to her injury.
If you have questions about your light-duty job assignment, either when it is first offered or after you have accepted it, please reach out to Monast Law Office.