If you are unable to perform your normal job tasks after suffering a work-related injury in Oklahoma, you may be offered alternative light-duty work. Are you required to accept this light-duty work to keep your Workers’ Compensation benefits? What happens if you refuse light-duty work?
What is Light-Duty Work?
According to Oklahoma Law Title 85: Workers’ Compensation, Chapter 2 – Compensation for Injuries, Section 3-A, an employee’s treating physician may declare that he or she is capable of alternative or modified light-duty work. After identifying the employee’s medical restrictions, the physician may allow the employer to assign the employee such light-duty work.
This light-duty work can be any tasks the employee is medically able to perform without discomfort or difficulty caused by their previous work-related injury. For example, if an employee’s normal job required him or her to lift heavy boxes and they can no longer perform this task due to their injuries, they may be assigned non-physical clerical duties in the same area.
Can I Refuse Alternative Light-Duty Work After My Work-Related Injury?
Under the Oklahoma statute above, injured employees must agree to perform alternative light-duty work that is offered by their employers. Refusing to perform this work could compromise your right to receive Workers’ Compensation benefits, including coverage for your medical expenses and any wage replacement benefits.
In short, you could lose your Workers’ Compensation benefits if you refuse to perform alternative light-duty work offered by your employer. However, if you believe the offered work is detrimental to your condition, you may request another assignment. Working with an Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Attorney can make this process go smoothly.
Can a Company-Selected Doctor Force Me Back to Work?
Under OK Workers’ Compensation law, your employer has the right to choose which doctor you see for treatment of a work-related injury. In some cases, this could pose a conflict of interest, if the doctor is allied with an unscrupulous employer and declares you fit to return to work when you are not.
Many employees may accept alternative light-duty work that is not medically proper because they are afraid of losing their job or their Workers’ Compensation benefits. This is when an experienced Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Attorney can help.
You have the right to obtain a second medical opinion on the company-selected doctor’s diagnosis and release for work. You may have to pay for this at your own expense, but if this doctor declares you unfit for the work assigned, you may refuse and appeal to Workers’ Compensation for a case review.
You should be aware that your employer may file a petition to have your benefits suspended, modified or terminated, *** This is incorrect. A Respondent can file a motion to terminate benefits and/or send a communication to the attorney that benefits are stopping or will be terminated. It is the injured worker’s responsibility to file a Form 9 objecting to the termination, after which the Commission will set the case for a hearing to re-start benefits. (The point is that benefits stop, and the Claimant must file for a hearing to restart the benefits.)
Light-Duty Work and Your OK Workers’ Compensation Benefits
You should know that an injured employee may earn less money performing alternative light-duty work. For instance, the new role may carry a lower wage or salary amount than your previous wage. In this case, you could be entitled to Temporary Partial Disability (TPD) benefits to make up the difference. The benefits would be equal to 70% of the difference between your pre-injury and post-injury average weekly wage.
For example, if you earned an average weekly wage of $1100 before your injury, and the alternative light-duty work assigned by your employer only pays $800 per week, the difference in your pay would be $300. You could be entitled to receive 70% of this amount each week, or $210, in Temporary Partial Disability benefits.
This is assuming that your post-injury weekly wage is less than the current Temporary Total Disability rate, which is $986.86 in 2023.
Consult an Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Attorney in Tulsa
Have you suffered a work-related injury and been assigned light-duty work? The Armstrong Law Firm, PLC will aggressively fight to ensure you are treated fairly and fully compensated through Workers’ Compensation. Call us at (918) 582-2500 or complete the contact form below for a free consultation with a skilled attorney.