Back to Work With Restrictions: What Are Your Rights?

Worker Returning to Work After an Injury

Now that businesses are beginning to reopen in southwestern Pennsylvania, workers are returning to their pre-pandemic jobs. Injured workers who spent the last few months recovering from their injuries may receive offers to return to their jobs with restrictions or light-duty responsibilities. 

When light-duty or restrictions are involved, an employer attempts to provide a position that accomplishes two objectives:

  1. The position meets the recovering worker’s physical limitations as described by either the treating doctor or one hired by the workers' comp insurance carrier.
  2. The position allows the employee to return to work while continuing to heal from their injuries. 

If your employer calls you with an offer to return to work with restrictions, review your rights and your doctor’s advice so that you don’t aggravate your injury. 

Returning to Work With Restrictions

Under Pennsylvania workers’ compensation law, an offer to return to work with restrictions is essentially a job offer. If you turn it down and refuse to return, you could potentially risk losing your benefits. Before responding to your employer’s offer, consider what your doctor says. Although the current offer may conflict with your doctor’s guidance, it could be modified to benefit both you and your employer.

When Your Doctor Disagrees With Your Employer and the Independent Medical Examiner

Your employer will likely propose restrictions or light-duty work recommended by an independent medical examiner, the doctor contracted by the insurance company to gauge the severity of your injuries. In some cases, your employer may ask for more than you are physically ready to do. For example, your employer may expect you to lift boxes over 50 pounds when your treating physician has not yet cleared you for lifting. 

In this situation, you have the option to refuse to return to work, but your employer may respond by filing a petition to terminate or suspend your benefits. This petition will be decided before a judge, so contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney before you decide to turn down your employer’s offer. 

When Your Doctor Agrees With Your Employer and the Independent Medical Examiner

If your employer’s offer for light-duty work aligns with the restrictions described by your treating physician, you may return to work. If you decide to stay at home under these circumstances, you risk losing benefits and your job.

Man in Wheelchair

Your Rights When Returning to Work

When you return to work with restrictions in Pennsylvania, you remain eligible for certain benefits. These include:

  • Partial disability benefits to cover any missed wages if the light-duty position pays less than your typical job
  • Coverage for reasonable and necessary medical expenses related to your work injury 

You may also resume receiving full benefits if your work-related disability continues under the following circumstances:

  • You lose your light-duty job through no fault of your own
  • You lose your job due to a lay off such as an economic downturn
  • Your doctor asks you to discontinue working while you are working under restrictions”

Continue communicating regularly with your doctor and your workers’ compensation attorney, if you have one. They can help ensure your rights are protected as your body continues to heal while you return to work. 

Connect With a Workers’ Compensation Attorney

If you are considering a return to work with restrictions while recovering from an injury, contact us. We can help you determine whether light-duty work is in your best interest and what your rights are if you are uncomfortable returning to work under your employer’s proposed restrictions. 

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