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Going Back to Work in a Light-Duty Job

Posted by Christine Foster on February 25, 2015

Find out if you can still work while recovering from a workplace injury.

Are you recovering from a workplace injury or occupational disease? If so, you could tell your employer that you are interested in doing light-duty work. Light-duty work is transitional work that you can do with your medical restrictions while recovering from an injury.

The Washington Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) encourages employers to provide employees recovering from workplace injuries with light-duty work because it reduces the impact of workers' compensation claims on workers, employers, and the workers' compensation system. In fact, L&I offers financial incentives to employers that provide light-duty work through the “Stay at Work” program.

What Is the “Stay at Work” Program?

One of the goals of Washington State's workers' compensation system is to get injured workers back to work as quickly as possible. The “Stay at Work” program provides employers with wage reimbursement for up to 66 days of light-duty or transitional work in a 24-month period, with a maximum claim of $10,000. The reimbursement covers 50% of the base wage. The “Stay at Work” program also provides up to $1,000 in training reimbursement. Any clothing, tools or equipment required for a temporary position are also covered for up to $2,500.

Studies have shown that injured workers who return to the workplace quickly recover better and are more likely to be fully re-employed. On the other hand, workers who are out of the workplace for more than six months after an injury are less likely to return to work. Bringing people back to work sooner keeps them engaged. It's important to note that you do not lose medical benefits if you return to work.

Examples of Light-Duty Work

Light-duty work may involve working shorter hours or handling duties with lighter physical demands. Light-duty work could even entail performing a different job altogether on a temporary basis. You may also be able to work in a modified job, or in other words, a job or work site in which adjustments are made to meet your physical limitations.

You should only do light-duty work that your doctor says you're capable of performing. You're not required to accept work that exceeds medical restrictions set by your doctor. Your employer cannot fire you for refusing work that your doctor recommends against. However, if your employer offers you a light-duty job that your doctor approves of and you don't accept it, you will no longer be eligible to receive time-loss compensation. Time-loss compensation consists of wage-replacement benefits that cover a portion of your regular wages. It is provided to workers who are unable to work as a result of a workplace injury or occupational disease. In order to qualify for time-loss compensation, your healthcare provider must certify that your condition is work-related and that you're unable to work.

If you don't earn as much money doing light-duty work, you could apply for Loss of Earning Power benefits, which supplement your income. In order to qualify for these benefits, your workers' compensation claim must still be open and your salary must have dropped more than 5%. If light-duty work is making your injury worse, contact your doctor because you could go back to receiving time-loss benefits.

Get Help with Your Workers' Compensation Claim in Seattle

If you've suffered a work-related injury or illness and are seeking workers' compensation benefits, please contact Foster Law, P.C. to schedule a free initial consultation. We are attorneys in Seattle with specific expertise in workers' compensation law and can help ensure that you receive the benefits you deserve. Call 206-682-3436 or fill out our online contact form for more information.

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