Light Duty Work. Should I take it?
Suppose you are a warehouse worker, who is required to lift heavy boxes. You injure your low back while lifting a 60-pound box and are unable to do your job. You begin to receive Workers’ Comp benefits, called total disability benefits, at the weekly rate of $600.00 based on your weekly earnings of $900.00. (In Pennsylvania, Workers’ Compensation typically pays 2/3 of an injured worker’s wages, but the money is non-taxable.)
Your employer sends you to an evaluation with a doctor, who finds that you have not fully recovered from your back injury, but you’re able to do light-duty work with lifting of no more than 15 pounds and only occasional bending. Your employer offers you a position in the office, answering phones and doing computer work, five hours per day, five days per week. The job pays $500.00 per week compared to the $900.00 you were making while doing your job in the warehouse. You discuss the job offer with your treating doctor, who recommends that you decline the offer due to the severity of your injury. You also don’t want to accept the job because you have never done office work and think it would be boring; and it doesn’t pay as much as your regular job. So you advise your supervisor that you will not be returning to the light-duty job.
What happens next? Almost certainly your employer will file a petition to modify your benefits on the basis that you have a weekly earning power of $500.00 and declined an offer of a job that was made available to you. If successful, you employer could reduce your weekly benefits significantly, from $600.00 to $266.67 (2/3 of the difference between $900.00 and $500.00)
Your case will go before a Workers’ Compensation judge, who will decide whether to accept the opinion of the doctor whom your employer sent you to who says you can do light-duty work, or your doctor, who maintains that you cannot. You will also testify and explained why you declined the job offer. You should not say that you turned down the job because you think the job would be uninteresting and it doesn’t pay as much as your warehouse job as they are not valid reasons to refuse a job under Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation law. You should explain to the judge that you think you are physically unable to perform the job and are relying on your doctor’s advice.
So a lot is at stake if your employer offers you a light-duty job. It’s important that you have an experienced Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation lawyer on your side to represent you and guide you through the process. If you are offered a light-duty job – or have any questions whatsoever regarding your Workers’ Compensation claim — we urge you to call Pearson Koutcher Law; one of our very experienced lawyers will meet with you, answer all of your questions, and if necessary defend you in any petition filed against you by your employer.