Light Duty Work

GENERAL IOWA LAW

After an injury in an Iowa workers’ compensation case the employee frequently is not able to do their regular job. In that situation the employer and work comp insurance company have the option of either paying the employee work comp healing period benefits while the employee is off work; or providing light duty work to the injured employee. The light duty work must be suitable to the work restrictions given by the authorized medical care provider.

If an injured worker rejects suitable light duty work, the worker is not entitled to receive healing period benefits as an option.

NON-SUITABLE LIGHT DUTY WORK

Sometimes the offered light duty work will not be suitable for the injured employee’s work restrictions. It can be very uncomfortable, but you need to tell your employer that you are not going to perform work outside your restrictions. You may need to contact an attorney if you cannot get your employer to provide suitable light duty work.

APPLICABILITY OF TEMPORARY PARTIAL DISABILITY BENEFITS

Sometimes an injured worker on light duty ends up receiving less pay than they received for their regular job. The lower pay can be because the light duty pays a lower hourly rate, or the injured worker cannot do incentive work, or other reasons. If this happens the worker is entitled to receive what is called temporary partial disability benefits. The formula for determining the amount of temporary partial disability benefits to be paid is two-thirds of the difference between the injured worker’s weekly earnings at the time of the injury, and the injured worker’s actual gross weekly income for each week following the injury. By way of example an injured worker’s gross weekly wages at the time of the injury may have been $1,000.00 per week. After the injury his wages on light duty work might be reduced to $700.00. Therefore, there is a $300.00 difference. Under the temporary partial disability formula the worker is entitled to be paid an additional $200.00.

LONG DISTANCE LIGHT DUTY WORK

A developing issue in Iowa workers’ compensation law is when an employer offers the injured employee light duty work, but the light duty work is a long distance from the employee’s home. This situation most frequently comes up in the trucking business. In one early case the employer offered the injured truck driver light duty work at the company headquarters which was about 400 miles from the injured worker’s home. The employer argument was that the truck driver was on the road and away from his family most of the time anyway. The Iowa Supreme Court found that requiring the employee to work 400 miles from his home was not suitable work. Therefore, the worker could refuse the long distance light duty work, and instead receive work comp healing period benefits.

However, the details of the offered long duty work are crucial. If you run into this situation you should definitely talk to a lawyer about your options.

THE STRESS OF LIGHT DUTY WORK

Many of our clients have found light duty work to be mentally stressful. Sometimes our clients are uncomfortable with the light duty work itself. Sometimes our clients are given a hard time by their co-workers or their managers. As a result some injured workers call in sick or otherwise fail to go to work while they are on light duty. However, you need to keep in mind that if you don’t go in for suitable light duty work, you are not entitled to be paid either wages or work comp benefits.

THE RISK OF JOB TERMINATION

Some of our clients have been terminated while on light duty. After they were injured our clients found that they were either wrongly disciplined, or disciplined for activity that had previously been considered acceptable.

Following the termination the employer and insurance carrier took the position that because the worker had been terminated the injured worker was not entitled to weekly benefits even though they were no longer being offered light duty work. Our law firm has frequently been successful in obtaining work comp healing period benefits for our clients in these situations.

CONCLUSION

We would be happy to answer any questions you have about light duty work or any other issue in Iowa workers’ compensation cases. Please call or email us now. There is no charge or obligation.