The term ‘light duty’ has a few different, very important, specific meanings in the context of employment. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) defines light duty as either a temporary or permanent job role that is less physically or mentally demanding than the employee’s previous role. The EEOC notes that sometimes employers use the term ‘light duty’ to simply refer to the fact that an injured employee is being excused from a particular, overly demanding, aspect of their current job role. Following an injury, you might be unexpectedly offered ‘light duty’ from your employer. If you find yourself in this situation, you should contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney immediately.
Employers and Insurers Have a Financial Incentive to Offer Light Duty Work
All injured workers should recognize that employers, and their insurers, have a significant financial incentive to offer light duty positions to those collecting, or attempting to collect, workers’ compensation benefits. The reason is relatively simple, once an injured worker is back on the job earning a paycheck, the workers’ compensation payments can either be substantially reduced or stopped altogether. For the insurance company this presents major direct savings, and for the employer, this will reduce the cost of their insurance.
You Should be Skeptical of Light Duty Job Offers
The financial incentive produced by the cost savings should make all workers skeptical of light duty offers. The best interest of the injured worker must be protected, and the employer or their insurance company will not necessarily have the best interest of the worker in mind when making these offers. Ideally, there will be a light duty position at your company that you can reasonably and safely perform, and you can take the position feeling comfortable in your role and get back on the job earning wages. But, there are two major concerns that you must consider.
- Do not get pushed into a position when you are not ready for it: If you are not physically or mentally ready to perform a certain job role, it is your legal right as an injured worker to get full compensation and reasonable time to recover from your injury. If you are not ready to take a position, you are not required to take it.
- Watch out for ‘made up’ positions: You should be very wary of taking a ‘light duty’ position that seems fake, or made up specifically for you. Some employers have very legitimate, long term, stable positions that they could offer you and that make sense for you situation. But with some employers, for example a lot of employers in the trade industries, there are simply very few legitimate ‘light duty’ positions. In these situations, employers have been known to ‘make up’ positions for an individual worker. Be very skeptical of that type of position, because many times it has been observed that an employer will let a worker take a ‘made up’ light duty position for a short while, and then the employer will lay off the employee for ‘financial reasons’ allegedly, but not actually, unrelated to the initial injury. This is an illegal practice, but it will create a huge disruption in your life and major headaches..
Contact An Experienced Workers’ Compensation Attorney
If you have been offered a light duty position after your on the job injury, expected or unexpected, you should always speak to an experienced workers’ compensation attorney before you accept the offer. A workers’ compensation attorney in Chicago will make sure that your legal rights and your best interest are fully protected.