There is little doubt that offering light duty helps an employer control its workers’ compensation claims cost. Unfortunately, some injured workers would rather remain on disability than return to work. They offer a variety of imaginative excuses for not returning to work, and many often succeed.
Employers are usually aware ahead of time which workers will gladly show up for light duty and those who will not. Listed below are a dozen excuses we have gathered over the years, all of which were raised and litigated at the WCAB, which in each case an award was issued in applicant’s favor. It truly is an eye-opener as in each situation retroactive TD benefits were awarded because of a defect in employer’s light duty offer. Here are the reasons why injured workers were successful:
- The employer failed to advise the employee when to report to work.
- The employee was not advised of the time to report to work.
- The work location was not identified.
- The employee’s supervisor or manager for light duty was not identified.
- The company failed to provide a telephone number of who and where to call if there were any questions.
- Light duty wages were not identified.
- The number of modified duty work hours was not identified.
- The employer failed to explain the offer of light duty was only a “temporary” position.
- The medical restrictions were not explained.
- The employer failed to identify the physician who issued the restrictions.
- The employer did not issue an unequivocal offer of light duty.
- The employee disputed that the light duty being offered complied with the issued medical restrictions.
To overcome the above excuses an employer should develop a form letter addressing each one of the dozen items listed above. Upon conclusion of the letter two sentences should be added, which state:
“In order to avoid any confusion or misunderstanding, we wish to make it perfectly clear that temporary modified work is being offered to you at this time where the job duties are within your medical restrictions (include a copy of the report if available) as described by (fill in doctor’s name) in his report dated (fill in date). You are instructed to report for work on (insert date) at (insert time) to (name of supervisor) at (location address). Should you have any question please immediately contact the undersigned at (insert phone number and email address).”
Employers should note that offering a light duty job where an employee is assigned to do absolutely no work at all is not considered a “good faith” offer. It’s considered “punishment with pay.” There is nothing more tedious and frustrating than to just sit for hours doing nothing. Also doing nothing does not comply with the definition of light duty as no duty at all is being performed!
If you have any questions about light duty, please contact Friedman + Bartoumian for assistance!