Can I Turn Down Light Duty Work for Workers' Comp?

Can You Turn Down Light Duty Work on Workers’ Comp?

If your job injures you or makes you sick, then your employer might offer another kind of work. This is often called “light duty work” or “job restrictions,” depending on where you live. You may then wonder whether you should accept it, and what happens if you say no. It’s a very good question!

We gathered the information you need to decide if you can or should turn down light duty work on workers’ compensation.

Does My Employer Have to Hold My Job Open While I’m on Workers’ Comp?

Probably not. Most states don’t have laws requiring employers to bring employees back to their same positions after workers’ comp leave. Four states do have reinstatement laws, though:

Most employers have return-to-work policies designed to get you back to work in some capacity as soon as possible. Light duty work is one of those strategies.

Do Employers Have to Offer Light Duty Tasks?

Do Employers Have to Offer Light Duty Work Under the ADA?

It depends on how your employer’s return-to-work plan operates. If they create certain positions for light duty, the ADA requires them to assign those to you, provided that:

  • You can’t perform your regular job because of your disability, or without reasonable accommodation.
  • You can do the light duty job either with or without reasonable accommodation.
  • The reassignment doesn’t create undue hardship for your employer.

What is Light Duty Work?

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), light duty is “temporary or permanent work that is physically or mentally less demanding than normal job duties.” That can be a job that your employer creates for you after your injury. Or it may be one your employer developed specifically to help employees on workers’ comp return to the job.

Learn more about light duty work.

What Are Some Light Duty Work Examples That Employers Might Offer?

  1. Equipment and facility inspections: Assessment and reporting activities such as safety reviews, expiration date monitoring, and gear and machine checks.
  2. Inventory management: Low-activity tasks like shipping and receiving administration, scanning, managing logs, and other record-keeping duties.
  3. Maintenance and repair: Work related to site, equipment, and gear maintenance; minor repairs and system monitoring, etc.
  4. Office and administrative tasks: Sedentary assignments including reception duties, answering the phone, handling emails and postal mail or packages, data entry, and filing.
  5. Training and supervision: Education and oversight work, such as employee orientation, one-on-one or group instruction, managing others or a work site, etc.

Check out this detailed list of light-duty tasks.

What Are Some Examples of Light Duty Tasks?

IMPORTANT: If your short term work assignment pays less, you may still qualify for temporary partial disability. Contact a workers’ compensation attorney in your state to find out the rules where you live.

What Happens if I Refuse to Accept Light Duty Work?

In most states, you can’t unless:

  • You aren’t qualified. If the new job requires licenses or certificates that you don’t possess and can’t learn, you can turn it down.
  • The new tasks go against your doctor’s orders. For example, if your provider bans you from working on elevated surfaces because of balance issues, you can’t do a job that requires using a ladder. If your physician says you can’t sit for hours at a time, then you can’t work at a desk job.

IMPORTANT: Since the rules are different in every state, it makes sense to consult a local attorney.

See what to expect during your consultation.

In general, turning down light duty work is a bad idea. In many states, your workers’ comp benefits will end immediately if you refuse this type of offer.

Need Workers’ Comp Help? Talk to an Expert for Free About Your Case

You want to focus on getting better, not trying to figure out your state’s specific workers’ comp laws. That’s why it makes sense to hire an experienced workers’ comp attorney. You pay $0 if your case isn’t successful and only one small fee if you win.

Ready to talk to a nearby expert for free about your case? Click the button below to start your free online benefits quiz and see if you may qualify:

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Margot Lester is the CEO of The Word Factory, a B2B & B2C content marketing agency that provides services for Fortune 100 brands, healthtech companies and SaaS developers. An award-winning business and brand journalist, she writes for daily and weekly newspapers and business journals, national magazines, in-flight publications and leading websites. Margot is also an in-demand writing coach and organizational communications trainer, helping individuals and teams write more effectively. Twitter/X: @word_factory LinkedIn: