Man at a desk in a warehouse due to light duty work restrictions

Light Duty Work Restrictions: 5 Frequently Asked Questions

Workers’ compensation laws are designed to make it easier for an individual who was injured due to a work-related accident or disease to receive medical care and be compensated for lost wages. The ultimate goal is to allow the worker to recover from the injuries and return to gainful employment.

Questions can arise when an employee’s doctor places light-duty work restrictions on the authorization to return to work or when an employer offers a worker the opportunity to return to light-duty work while the individual is still recovering. Here are five of the most common questions people and their employers have about light-duty work restrictions.

#1 – Must an employer offer light-duty work?

Answer: As a general rule, employers are not obligated to offer light-duty work to workers seeking to return after a work-related injury. There are, however, exceptions. Oregon, for example, requires employers with six or more workers to accommodate a returning worker whose doctor authorizes a return to work with light-duty work restrictions. The obligation to permit the worker to return only applies if a job exists to accommodate the restrictions and the employee has the skill and training to perform the tasks associated with the job.

An employee on workers’ compensation in Oregon has up to three years from the date of injury to request reinstatement to either full-duty work or light-duty work if a suitable job becomes available. There is an incentive of sorts for employers to create a position to accommodate someone who is cleared to return to work with light-duty restrictions. The person’s return to employment could diminish the payments the worker receives under workers’ compensation and lower the employer’s insurance premiums.

#2 – Can an injured worker refuse an offer of reemployment with light-duty work restrictions?

Answer: The general rule is that a worker has the right to refuse an offer of reemployment with light-duty work restrictions as long as the individual’s health care provider has not authorized it. If a physician has cleared a worker to return with light-duty work restrictions, a refusal to do so by the worker could result in the loss of workers’ compensation benefits.

#3 – Does the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) affect offers of light-duty work?

Answer: Both the FMLA and workers’ compensation laws offer protection to workers that might differ dramatically when an offer of reemployment with light-duty work restrictions is made to an injured worker. The FMLA allows a worker to refuse an offer of reemployment without loss of family leave rights, but the refusal of light-duty work could jeopardize the individual’s right to continue to receive workers’ compensation benefits if they have medical clearance for it.

#4 – Does a worker returning to work under light-duty work restrictions get paid less than a worker without restrictions?

Answer: Salaried employees, as opposed to those paid on the basis of the number of hours worked each day, could be entitled to receive their usual salary even if working under light-duty work restrictions, depending upon the laws a particular state. Employees who usually work on an hourly-wage basis are paid based upon the number of hours worked while on light-duty.

Oregon allows employers to pay returning workers at the rate of pay normally associated with the light-duty position at which they are reemployed. Employers have the option to pay workers at the pay rate they were previously earning instead of at the lower rate. This allows them to avoid paying additional wage benefits under workers’ compensation in order to keep their premiums lower.

#5 -Does an employer have to reinstate a worker on light-duty work restrictions to his or her original job when doctors remove the restrictions?

Answer: As a general rule, an employer cannot take adverse action to penalize an employee for taking advantage of the benefits offered through workers’ compensation. Included in this would be denying workers the right to return to their original jobs once they have recovered sufficiently from their injuries to return to work.

A worker who accepts reemployment with light-duty work restrictions cannot be denied the opportunity to return to his or her original job when the restrictions are removed by the doctor who originally authorized the return to work. In Oregon, the right to reinstatement to the job the person held prior to being injured applies even if the position was given to another worker, as long as the request for reinstatement is made within three years from the date of the original injury.

Conclusion

These and other questions surrounding a decision to return to work under light-duty work restrictions involve complex legal issues that might affect a person’s entitlement to benefits. The legal advice of a workers’ compensation attorney might be the best source for additional information on this topic.

**While we love receiving your comments, we cannot provide any legal advice through this forum. Please contact us in you’re in Central Oregon, or an attorney in your area.**

Comments 50

  1. Joseph belton

    My employer (line manager) requested i undertake strenuous activity whilst on a light/amended duty following testicular surgery – and offered light duty to a fully capable member of staff and then scrutinized me when i refused strenuous activity. She is aware of the amended dutys and the nature of my surgery, (i work in a clinical based neuro rehab/medical environment) Do I have any grounds to take action?
    I am a member of the carers union unison.

    1. Post
      Author
      proqadmin

      Hi Joseph,

      Thanks for your comment! We would encourage you to speak to a legal representative in your area to review your options.

  2. Dewayne Newsome

    I injured my back moving a washing machine at home. I end up pulling and straining muscle in my back. I work in a lumber plant and I’m constantly bending standing and pushing carts of lumber weight approx 3000 lbs or more. On Tuesday I was pushing a cart of lumber and my back gave out on me while at work and I was in crucial pain and still is from when I first injured my back. The Dr. gave me a few day off and put me on light duty and restrictions once I returned to work. On the day my back went out a co worker helped me get up and I tried to continue work but I couldn’t due to the pain in my lower back and the pains and numbness that I was having in both of my legs. I told my supervisor that I hate to quit on him but I couldn’t work under those conditions with My back giving out on me and the pain. I also asked could I call a to come pick me up from work. I attempted to go to work Wed only to find out the he had put in my termination I never told him I was quiting my job only that I could not work that particular day the. I have a 2 yr old daughter and a newborn on they way and I would never quit my job knowing that I have those kind of responsibilities that I have to take care of. Could you pleasw assist me on what can I or can I not do. I live in the state of Florida too.

    1. Post
      Author
      proqadmin

      Hi Dewayne,

      Thank you for your message! We would encourage you to seek legal advice from a worker’s compensation attorney in the state of Florida. They will be able to review your case while taking into account Florida’s laws.

  3. Steve Y.

    I suffered a Hernia from work and had surgery back in Nov. of 2016. The surgeon, once my light duty was up, returned me to regular duty even though I still had considerable pain. I got a second opinion from another hernia surgeon and he says I have a nerve caught in the hernia mesh. My Workers Comp rep does not return my calls now and I have missed a lot of work due to the groin pain caused from that nerve. I have submitted a request for back pay to my W.C. rep and tried to call her to get answers but she refuses to return my calls. What are my options? Do I need to make an appointment to see you?
    Thank you, Steve

    1. Post
      Author
  4. Terri mitchell

    Curious um we have an afternoon shift that pays extra for that shift can a person thats on light duty take that shift get paid an extra buck for doing less work

    1. Post
      Author
      Bailey and Yarmo, LLP

      Hi Terri, a workers’ compensation attorney in your area will be able to explain the legal parameters of light duty work.

  5. DAWN

    I had rotor cuff surgery on sept. 19 2017 the due to a work related injury. The doctor released me to work light duty with restrictions. I have to go to physical therapy 3 times a week how do they pay me for those visits.

    1. Post
      Author
      Bailey and Yarmo, LLP

      Hi Dawn,

      Thanks for the message. If you’re in Bend, OR feel free to reach out to us; if not, we would suggest contacting a workers’ comp attorney in your area.

    1. Post
      Author
      Bailey and Yarmo, LLP

      Hi Rose,

      Really great question. If you’re in Central Oregon, please schedule a free consult with us regarding your case. If not, we would suggest finding a worker’s comp attorney in your area!

  6. Cc

    I hurt myself at work. I was just put on light duty. I must sit all day with 1 hour of standing and walking maximum.
    Also, I must wear a knee splint and use crutches!!! (AT ALL TIMES)
    I have to go up 2 flights of stairs…and down to leave work…
    I want to deny my light duty and take personal leave until I get put on full duty.
    Is this possible? Will my company still pay for my medical bills?
    I live in Texas.

    1. Post
      Author
      Bailey and Yarmo, LLP

      Hi,

      Thank you very much for your message and sorry to hear about your injury! We cannot legally give advice here, but we would encourage you to seek a workers’ compensation attorney in your area. They can help you navigate this tricky subject.

  7. Frances Hernandez

    Is an employer required to offer light duty work, for a none related work injury. I live in Connecticut, and wonder if statutes exit of this nature nation wide?

    1. Post
      Author
      Bailey and Yarmo, LLP

      Hi Frances, as all states operate differently, we can’t give you any legal advice here. We recommend you reach out to someone local to for advice.

  8. Bryan Jordan

    I went to the doctor the insurance company provided and I wasn’t happy with his care he just barely touched my back and said you can go back to work lite duty today and I told him I could not stand or sit for long periods of time. I am in texas can I get a doctor of my choice since this doctor wasn’t thorough. I cant walk much less work tomorrow,

    1. Post
      Author
      Bailey and Yarmo, LLP

      Hi Bryan, we can’t give legal advice here, but if you are in the Central Oregon area then you can contact us for a free consult. If not, we recommend you seek out someone local to you.

  9. Jeff bass

    My sister tore ligaments in her foot. Her doctor refuses to give her any more papers for leave from work and wants her to return to work on light duty, her company doesn’t allow light duty. What should she do? She can work and reasonably do her job, with a few minor things that she can not do. But her boss will not let her return due to a walking boot she has to wear. Is a note from the doctor saying light duty enough for her to keep her job and return when she is fully functional?

    1. Post
      Author
      Bailey and Yarmo, LLP

      Hi Jeff, are you located in Central Oregon? If so, you can contact us here. If not, we recommend you speak with someone local to you that can advise you.

  10. Stephanie

    I fell at work because in my warehouse our light sensors are so cheap it was dark when I missed a step trying to get back on my equipment I banged my ankle pretty good and it’s swollen so now they make me work at a entirely different shift graveyard shift I sit almost the whole time cause my ankle is swollen and in pain so now my back is hurting really bad but I remember I had a body harness on when I fell I hope I didn’t mess my back up so can I report this to the Doctor cause I only reported my ankle or is it to late?? I don’t want to even go to work cause I am having panic attacks not use to graveyard and I am in pain

    1. Post
      Author
  11. Gregg

    Can an employer in Wisconsin require you to remove partial permanent disability restrictions as a term of employment, otherwise refuse you to return to the position done before and during ERTW? My supervisor and manager told me in a meeting that either I have my doctor and surgeon remove all work restrictions or I would be let go. Can they do that? What recourse do I have?

    1. Post
      Author
      Bailey and Yarmo, LLP

      Hi Greg, since every state has their own laws, we recommend you talk with an attorney in your area who can provide you with accurate information.

  12. Jason Rodgers

    I stepped in a hole putting up a bill board. Turned it in to work, got an mri. It showed a torn meniscus. Dr said looked more like a strain than a tear and put me on light duty and therapy for the nxt several wks. Im working light duty currently and doung therapy 3 times a wk. My therapy is about an hr each visit. Its about a mile from my work. Would therapy b considered part of my 8 hr day and get paid for it or would i schedule therapy for after work?

    1. Post
      Author
      Bailey and Yarmo, LLP

      Hi Jason, since state laws differ, we recommend consulting with an attorney in your area. If you are located in Central Oregon, feel free to reach out to us.

  13. Lisa Loring

    I currently have a work related injury and have restrictions from a doctor. Do I need to follow these restrictions on my own time? I work in Iowa.

    1. Post
      Author
  14. francisco

    im working for my employer for 7 years, 3 years labour broker 4 years permanent. i was a picker and packer for that 7 years i just found out that i have scoliosis a permanent low back injury the doctor gave me a note asking my company to put me on light duty the company did put me in inventory .i started attending physiotherapy they send me to go see the orthopedic the orthopedic wasn’t happy with the light duty they gave me and wrote another letter asking them for lighter duty and ever since they say im incompetent they do have lighter duty post but they say they dont have

    ur advice would be highly appreciated

    1. Post
      Author
  15. Kimberly

    My husband got hurt at work this year fell off a 2 story building n shattered his left heel on May 15ish then had surgery at end of May of 1 plate and 8 pins holding together his heel ( did I say he works in construction) June n July he was on crutches and in a boot Aug they started him on 12 days of therapy that’s 3x a week for 4 weeks. Sept he started light duty 2 weeks 4 hours 2weeks6hrs then full time. He hurts very Badly n thinks he shouldn’t complain as he might lose his job I say tell you comp claimed and the doctor What is your advice help please . I feel he shouldn’t be working . what’s your advice .

    1. Post
      Author
      Bailey and Yarmo, LLP

      Hi Kimberly, if you live in the Central Oregon area, you can contact us here. Otherwise, we recommend speaking with someone who is local to you.

  16. Marshall Ries

    Hello im currious im a Over the road Truck driver and had a injury while working. could i turn down light duty if the pay is substanualy lower than my current paycheck. and i also live 8 hrs from any of there offices

    1. Post
      Author
      Bailey and Yarmo, LLP

      Hi Marshall. We recommend that you speak with an attorney who is local to you, as different states and jurisdictions have different laws.

  17. Marcos Villarreal

    doctor send me back to light duty with restrictions standing :30 minutes , walking :30 minutes, sitting 2 hours, no bending /stooping , kneeling/squatting, pushing/pulling,climbing or overhead reaching, max 2 hours per day work, sit/stretch of 5 per hour. no driving heavy equipment only drive automatic transmission , no lifting or carry objects more than 8 lbs. for more than 2 hours and on prescription and medications may cause drowsy low back pending surgery and injured neck , while having understanding with owner walking in office standing against the wall and H.R. getting sending me in a small room and closes the room get offended because of my injury . my doctor advises me to walk and they get mad , why be on light duty if there getting pisset.

    1. Post
      Author
  18. Angel

    Hello,

    I was on my way to work but I got hurt at home 15 minutes before my work. And my doctor said that I have to be in light duty at work, my one of my boss said they can’t put me to work because I did not got hurt at work. Do I have to be hurt at work enable for them to put me in light duty?

    1. Post
      Author
      Bailey and Yarmo, LLP

      Hi Angel, as different states have different laws, we recommend seeking advice from someone local to you. If you are in Central Oregon, you can contact us here.

  19. LAURIE BUCK

    I work as an Admin Asst in a jail. I am expected to pick up mail and parcels at Post Office each day. I have had Dupytrans Contracture for 8 years, and it is very painful, especially when lifting heavy objects. I am 63 years old. My doctor wrote me a note to not be required to lift more than 5 pounds. HR and manager will not acknowledge this doctor note, but require their form to be filled out. Until that gets done they will not even talk to me about this, so I am expected to continue use as usual. It hurts constantly.

    1. Post
      Author
  20. Robin Mallett

    Does an employer have to reinstate a worker on light-duty work restrictions to his or her original job when doctors remove the restrictions? Is this different among the states?

    1. Post
      Author
      Bailey and Yarmo, LLP

      Hi Robin, as all states operate differently, we can’t give you any specific advice here. We recommend you reach out to someone local for advice. If you are in the Central Oregon area, you can contact us here.

  21. Lavin

    In Oregon. I’ve been told by my Occupational Health Doctor that they aren’t allowed to take me off work due to injury, just give restrictions, unless I’m part operative. My Employer states that they are not allowed to send me home simply because there is no work, and require that I stay for full shifts doing things like counting lights and trash cans. I’m restricted from going home early when the rest of the shift does when work runs out for the day.

    Is there a legal reason for this, or is my employer simply attempting to bypass workman’s comp?

    1. Post
      Author
  22. KIMBERLY Gonzales

    I am in iowa, and have trigger finger. i have seen an ortho doctor who has put me on restrictions of no repeadative grasping and 5lb lifting restriction. My work has said i need to dust for endless hours at night as part of the light duty work. No one else does this dusting and my non injured arm gets real sore doing this for hours. Do they have to offer suitable work for you to do? The dusting is in a manufacturing plant where a tornado came through months ago so there is enormous dust on everything. But it is kind of futile as there are huge ventalation fans blowing the dust right back on shelving once you dust

    1. Post
      Author
      Bailey and Yarmo, LLP

      Hi Kimberly, unfortunately we cannot give out advice in the comments section. We recommend you speak with something local to you in Iowa so that they can go over your state’s laws, as they are all different.

  23. I’m on light duty and Worker’s Comp. say it while my appeal is under review I have to go back to full duty I want to know how is that possible because the workers comp doctor did not release me and my primary doctor won’t release me

    I’m on light duty and Worker’s Comp. say it while my appeal is under review I have to go back to full duty I want to know how is that possible because the workers comp doctor did not release me and my primary doctor won’t release me

    1. Post
      Author
      Bailey and Yarmo, LLP

      Hi, unfortunately we cannot give out legal advice in the comments section. We recommend that you speak with someone in your area. If you live in Central Oregon, you can contact us for a free consultation.

    1. Post
      Author
      Bailey and Yarmo, LLP

      Hi Miriam, we cannot offer advice in the comments section. We are happy to answer questions regarding cases if you live in Central Oregon.

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