When workers are injured on the job, and their claim for Ohio workers' comp temporary total disability (TTD) is allowed, they have the right to time off to recover from their injuries. However, if their employer offers them work modified to meet the limitations of their injury, they are most likely required to take it. We answer some of the most common questions we get about modified or light-duty work to help you understand what is expected of you and what your rights are as an injured worker.
Questions About Return-to-Work Options in Ohio
When you feel like you are getting conflicting information from your employer, doctor, and managed care organization (MCO) about whether you must return to work, it can help to talk to an experienced Ohio workers' comp attorney about your rights and obligations. Meanwhile, here are answers to some questions you might have right now.
What if I Can't Perform My Old Job After My Injury?
If your work injury prevents you from doing the job you were hired to do and your workers' comp claim for TTD benefits is approved, you have the right to time off to recover. You will be required to choose a doctor certified by the Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC) for an assessment of your physical capabilities. If the doctor's assessment of what you can do does not match your job requirements, you cannot be forced to return to work until the doctor decides you have recovered enough to do so.
If I Am Offered Modified Work by My Ohio Employer, Am I Required to Take It?
As long as the work offers accommodations for the restrictions placed on you by your doctor, then you will most likely have to accept the job and return to work. Possible modifications include only working part-time, changing from a standing-up line job to a desk job, or working with assistive devices. If the modified job pays less than what you were earning before the injury, you will receive 2/3 of the difference in pay in wage loss benefits.
What if I Don't Want to Accept the Modified Work I Am Offered?
To continue to collect workers' comp benefits, you must accept the work. However, if you cannot perform the job because of your injury, you can ask for a vocational assessment that considers the tasks you must perform in your new role.
What if My Ohio Employer Can't Offer Modified Work?
Ohio does not require employers to create alternative work for every injured employee collecting workers' comp. Sometimes, it is impossible for duties to be altered to meet your specific restrictions. Here, you can continue to collect wage replacement benefits until you have recovered sufficiently to perform your job duties or have been deemed as having reached maximum medical improvement.
What Are My Options if My Ohio Employer Refuses to Accommodate My Work Restrictions?
If you return to work because you have been promised modified duties that meet your restrictions, but you find you have not actually been given appropriate accommodations, first make your employer and MCO aware of the situation. If you believe that you have been intentionally denied accommodations, contact a workers' comp attorney as soon as possible to find a resolution that lets you keep your benefits.
Can My Employer Terminate Me if They Can't Offer Modified Work?
Ohio employers cannot fire you because you filed a claim for workers' compensation or because you have asked for modified or light-duty work. Employer retaliation is illegal under Ohio workers' comp law. However, you can legally be terminated for any other reason—or no reason at all—because Ohio is an "at-will" employment state. If you suspect retaliation, consult a workers' comp attorney to discuss your rights. An attorney can also help you keep your workers' comp benefits if you have been released for modified work, but your job no longer exists.
Can I Be Forced to Retire if My Ohio Employer Can't Offer Modified Work?
If you suspect you are being forced to retire as an act of retaliation for a workers' comp claim, that is illegal. If you are eligible for retirement and you decide this is a good time to go, we encourage you to talk to a workers' comp attorney before you do anything. You are eligible for benefits regardless of your age, and there are ways to maximize your workers' comp and retirement benefits when you time your exit just right.