Ohio Workers’ Compensation – Light Duty Job Offers
Injured workers’ in Ohio who are physically unable to do the job being performed at the time of the injury are often offered light duty by the employer. This guide is intended to provide advice on how best to handle this situation and what to avoid.
Must the injured worker accept light duty?
In most situations the answer is yes. If the employer offers a position that is within the restrictions provided by the injured worker’s physician of record, then the injured worker is generally obligated to accept. There are some exceptions, but the Industrial Commission hearing officers tend to favor the employer when the issue is whether the injured worker refused light duty.
What happens if the injured worker refuses a legitimate light duty job offer?
Two very unfortunate events typically occur. First, the injured worker is disqualified from receiving temporary total disability. Second, the injured worker is often terminated for refusing to show up for work.
Who determines whether the injured worker can work light duty?
In Ohio the injured workers’ physician of record determines the restrictions caused by the allowed conditions in the claim. This is one area where the injured worker’s doctor is given much deference and leeway. The restrictions much be based solely on the allowed conditions. Otherwise, the employer or BWC may challenge the legitimacy of the restrictions.
What should the injured worker do if he/she is unable to perform the light duty being offered?
To avoid a refusal of light duty and/or termination, the only course of action is to return to the physician of record and request that the restrictions be increased or request to be taken off work completely. For this reason, it is important to have a physician of record who will evaluate the restrictions fairly. Unfortunately, many occupational medicine clinics are unwilling to go against the wishes of the employer. From their perspective, both the employer and medical provider will go to great lengths to avoid the payment of temporary total disability because such payments increase the cost of the claim to the employer.
What if the light duty results in a reduction in pay? Must the injured worker still accept the light duty?
The answer is normally yes. However, in Ohio the injured working may file for working wage loss compensation. In such cases, the injured worker will be paid two-thirds of the difference between the light duty wage and the injured worker’s average weekly wage. This type of compensation is often paid when the injured worker is released to less than full time work and the reduced working hours result in a wage loss.
The statute that governs the payment of wage loss compensation is Ohio Revised Code Section 4123.56(B).