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What does 'light duty' work mean?

After being injured on the job, there is incentive to get back to work as quickly as reasonably possible, as being out of work for too long can impact your finances.

If your doctor says you can work but cannot perform the duties of your previous job, there are alternatives. The state Workers' Compensation Board encourages employers to have plans that include light duty. But what does "light duty" mean?

A range of interpretations

In the context of workers' comp law, light duty can have a variety of meanings.

The most common interpretation is that such a position will be less physically demanding than the previous position. The term of the job might be temporary or permanent, depending on the circumstances of the disability.

In some instances, light duty may refer to the employer excusing the worker from doing some job functions, pending full recovery.

Things to know about return to work

There are important things to know about a light duty return to work. A few of those things are:

  • If you return to work in a light duty capacity and your pay rate is less than what it was before the injury, you may be entitled to "reduced earnings" benefits under the law.
  • You are entitled to continued medical treatment coverage under workers' comp while working the light duty job.
  • In some instances, it may be necessary to have your doctor review a written description of the light duty duties you will be performing to make sure they are within your capabilities as you recover.
  • Workers' compensation law does not require your employer to keep your old position open during your recovery.

Other job protections might be available through the federal Family and Medical Leave Act. Also, the Americans with Disabilities Act could make it possible for to obtain job accommodations.

Gaining knowledge of opportunities

Workers have legal protections, but first you must know what they are. Working with a skilled attorney is a good way to gain that knowledge.

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