If my employer offers modified work, do I have to take it?

modified work duty and workers' compProbably. When you're collecting workers’ comp after a workplace injury, your employer’s goal is to get you back to work as soon as possible.

Depending on your injuries, your treating physician may release you for work with certain restrictions.

If your employer can provide you with work that accommodates those restrictions, you must probably take it. However, you want to make sure it's a valid offer.

What Is Modified or Light Duty Work?

If the doctor says you're able to perform work after a workplace injury, an employer may modify your previous duties or create a new position to accommodate you. The Ohio Bureau of Worker’s Compensation (BWC) encourages employers to offer options such as:

  • Transitional work. Some employers offer a program that brings workers with physical restrictions into the workplace to contribute productively under the direction of rehabilitation professionals.
  • Job modification. If an employer can remove or alter the physical barriers preventing an injured worker from performing the essential functions of the job, he or she may be brought back to the job before recovering.
  • Gradual return. A recovering worker could be asked to return to work on a graduated basis, slowly building up to full-time work over a 13-week period.

It costs companies to have employees off for long periods, so they're motivated to get you back to work, even if you're limited in what you can do. Not every job situation lends itself well to modification, but employers may try anyway and in their rush, cross a line.

What to Watch Out for When Offered Modified Duties

When an employer is worried about the bottom line, they can easily violate your rights as an injured worker. While you have to accept a valid offer of modified work if your treating physician approves, also be aware that:

  • You're entitled to wage loss compensation if the modified work you're offered pays less than what you earned before the injury.
  • A supervisor may not have the authority to offer modified work. Be sure to understand who's making the offer and confirm that it's a valid offer. 
  • Workplace health centers, such as OhioHealth’s WorkHealth clinics, have mixed loyalty. They work for your employer, not for you, so they may push you back to the job when you’re not ready.
  • Employers can be sneaky. They may promise you modified tasks and then not follow through by honoring your doctor’s restrictions.

When you're injured at work, your employer should treat you with respect and give you the time and space you need to heal completely before returning to full duty.

How an Attorney May Be Able to Help

An Ohio worker’s comp attorney can make sure your rights are protected when you're offered modified or light duty work. It's difficult to advocate for yourself in these situations, but I can make sure you're not being taken advantage of by your employer.

Get more information about workers’ comp in Ohio by requesting a free download of my book, The Worker’s Guide to Injury Compensation in Ohio and then call me to talk about your modified work offer.

 

James Monast
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Fighting for Ohio’s Injured Workers and their Families