what if my employer denies light duty work

"What can I do if my employer cannot put me on light duty?" is a critical question for many workers recovering from injuries. Work injuries often impact your life beyond the pain of the injury itself. Beyond the necessary physical recovery, workers often find themselves off the job and under financial pressure.

As you wait for your insurance to process claims and for workers’ compensation to assess your injuries, bills are piling up.

The good news is that returning to work before you are fully healed can be an option that benefits both employee and employer. Your doctor may approve you for “light” or “transitional” duty. This means that you may be able to perform some of your job’s less taxing functions. But what if an employer cannot accommodate work restrictions? 

In this post, the New Jersey Employment lawyers at O’Connor, Parsons, Lane & Noble will walk you through what happens if an employer is refusing light-duty work. We can help you understand your options if your employer has no light duties, and we can help you plan your return to work after a serious on-the-job injury.

What If an Employer Cannot Accommodate Work Restrictions?

Light-duty work typically means that, after a work injury, your employer will place you in a less physically demanding job until you are ready to resume all of your job’s responsibilities. Sometimes, this means making adjustments to your current job to accommodate your doctor’s recommendations and requirements following your injury. 

Does your employer have to offer light-duty work? In New Jersey, the answer may be yes. The term “light duty” is not defined in the New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Act. However, New Jersey case law holds that an employer needs to offer a light-duty job to an employee before the employer can terminate any workers’ compensation benefits or fire an employee. If the employee rejects the job or is unavailable for work, then the employer has no obligation. 

But the real controversies arise when an employer has no light duties or when they simply refuse to offer light-duty work. If you are injured and dealing with a New Jersey employer that has no light-duty work for you after an on-the-job accident, contact a New Jersey employment lawyer right away.

My Employer Has No Light Duties

In some situations, your boss or manager may claim the employer has no light duties to offer you. 

Light-duty jobs often consist of doing less physical labor or working slower than an employee’s normal job. Sometimes these jobs entail performing office tasks, especially if your job previously involved heavy lifting. A few examples of light-duty work might include:

  • Performing office tasks,
  • Running errands,
  • Taking inventories,
  • Completing reports,
  • Supervising on job sites,
  • Monitoring surveillance, or
  • Performing light or in-shop equipment maintenance.

But what if your employer cannot accommodate work restrictions and light duties like these are not an option? This is rarely the case, but the situation may arise where an employer manufactures a single product. This can also happen when an employee is only qualified to do a single, heavy job. In these cases, consult an experienced employment lawyer as soon as possible. 

My Employer Is Refusing Light-Duty Work

If your boss is capable of making adjustments to your work, but your employer is refusing light-duty work accommodations, they may violate New Jersey law. 

They may also be violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), depending on the nature of the refusal. If you believe that you are being refused accommodation because you are pursuing a workers’ compensation claim, speaking with an employment lawyer can help you clarify the next steps.

What If Changed Job Duties Are Not Enough?

Not Enough Cash

Sometimes, an employer will offer light-duty work at a reduced pay rate. Depending on the nature of the job offered and the injury suffered, a workers’ compensation award may not cover the difference. Sometimes, an employer has no light duties that pay the same rate as the employee’s regular job. 

This may force an employee to seek other work. If this happens to you, speak with an experienced employment lawyer as soon as possible. The O’Connor, Parsons, Lane & Noble team has helped many New Jersey workers address these difficult situations.

Not Enough Accommodation

More fundamentally, what if an employer cannot accommodate work restrictions put in place by your doctor? Sometimes, light-duty arrangements are made with the best of intentions by both parties. 

However, the level of accommodation may be inadequate for the employee’s needs. Likewise, the employee’s function level can be insufficient for workplace needs. 

If an employer cannot appropriately accommodate work restrictions, check your workplace policies. Sometimes, a human resources professional or a union representative can help. Other times, a doctor can provide additional guidance. If none of those options work, speak with an employment lawyer

How Will a Light-Duty Job Impact My Benefits?

Ideally, a light-duty job should not impact your benefits. However, as we have discussed, an employer might offer you a light-duty job at a reduced pay rate. Sometimes, if an employer cannot accommodate your work restrictions, they may even try to terminate your employment. Workers’ compensation law can be complicated. Disability discrimination cases can be complex too. You should not try to navigate these challenges alone, especially when you are vulnerable from a work-related injury.

If your employer cuts your job benefits or fires you because of a request for light-duty work, call an employment lawyer right away. An experienced attorney has seen these situations multiple times and most likely will be able to help you formulate a solution.

The O’Connor, Parsons, Lane & Noble Difference

The dedicated team of attorneys at O’Connor, Parsons, Lane & Noble regularly assist clients with a wide variety of employment law matters under both state and federal law. We can help you get the peace of mind and financial compensation you deserve.

Contact Us

Contact us today for a case consultation. New Jersey workers should not be denied benefits or compensation for seeking a safe and successful return to work after an injury.

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