Light-Duty After a St. Louis Work Injury: Understanding Your Rights

by James M. Hoffmann on Jan. 26, 2021

Accident & Injury Employment  Workers' Compensation 

Summary: What happens if you return to work and are put on light-duty because of your injuries? Do you know your rights under these circumstances?

Being hurt at work while performing their duties can happen to anyone, no matter what sector they work in or the job they perform. This is exactly why workers’ compensation exists: to protect these workers financially, replace their lost wages, cover their medical costs, and help with the rehabilitation.

However, what happens if you return to work and are put on light-duty because of your injuries? Do you know your rights under these circumstances?


You Generally Have the Right to Receive Part of Your Wage Difference

If your light-duty work pays less than your previous work, you could be eligible for a partial payment of the difference between the two. Let’s say that you were working for $1,000.00 a week originally. After your injury, while on medical leave, it was established that workers’ compensation would pay you $750.00 for the lost wages (75% of your income).

When returning to work on light-duty, your employer negotiates a new salary of $500.00 per week since you work less or produce less. There’s a 50% difference between your salaries. The state should generally be paying 75% of that difference.


You Generally Have the Right to Refuse Tasks that Go Against Doctor’s Recommendations

You generally have the right to refuse tasks that don’t comply with your workers’ compensation doctor. If, for example, your employer asks you to work longer hours than the doctor told you or to lift objects that are heavier than the limit your physical condition imposed you, you can politely refuse the task.

Your employer doesn't have the right to reduce your wage or fire you for refusing such activities since you have medical proof that they are beyond your current physical or psychological capabilities. Most of the time, your workers’ compensation doctor will also define a period of time when your work limitations are imposed or a certain medical improvement that must be achieved before you return to your previous job. 


What Are Your Obligations?

As a work accident victim, your obligation is to return to work if your health condition permits it and if work is available. If your workers’ compensation doctor allows you to perform light-duty work and your employer makes this possible, you shouldn't refuse their offer without discussing this with your attorney.

Even if you perceive your light-duty work as demeaning, boring, or unsatisfactory, you can’t turn it down just because of that. You also can’t choose to stay at home and collect benefits since the system is designed to encourage you to get back to work. 


The Benefit of Working With an Experienced Attorney

If you or a loved one are on light-duty work, it’s important to know both your rights and your obligations regarding this new employment status. For more information, it would be beneficial to discuss your situation with an experienced work injury attorney and find out if your rights are, indeed, respected by your employer. Working with an experienced attorney from the moment you are injured on the job can ensure that your legal rights are protected right from the start of your claim.

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