Under Missouri workers’ compensation law, employers are not legally obligated to provide light duty work to employees who have had work restrictions imposed by a doctor after a workplace injury. However, for financial reasons, many employers do provide light duty roles. Employees who are offered an adequate light duty role may lose workers’ compensation benefits if they turn it down.
What is Light Duty in Workers’ Compensation Cases?
Light duty is a work assignment that is less physically or mentally demanding than the worker’s normal job. The assignment can be temporary or permanent. It is generally assigned after a workplace injury has left an employee partially, but not fully, disabled. The employee can return to work, but there are certain things that they normally do on the job that they cannot do because of their injury.
An important aspect of light duty is how the employee gets paid. Employees who return to work after a workplace injury on light duty are paid their salary by their employer. Employees who do not have a light duty role to fill will receive temporary disability benefits through Missouri’s workers’ compensation system, paid for by the employer’s workers’ compensation insurance company.
Do Missouri Employers Have to Offer It?
In Missouri, employers are not legally obligated to offer light duty work to employees who have been hurt on the job and who are not quite able to perform all of their old job’s tasks.
However, many employers in the state go to significant lengths to provide a light work role. While they might claim that this is done for the good of the employee, that is not the full story.
The vast majority of Missouri employers satisfy their legal requirement to provide workers’ compensation coverage by getting workers’ compensation insurance. Just like other forms of insurance, the employer pays a regular premium in exchange for the insurance company covering the expenses of a workers’ compensation claim.
These workers’ compensation insurance companies are for-profit businesses. They would much prefer it if employers provided light work programs because, that way, the employer pays the worker his or her salary, rather than the insurance company paying the worker disability benefits.
To incentivize light duty job arrangements, then, workers’ compensation insurers will generally offer a discounted rate on the premium payments that employers have to make to get workers’ compensation coverage.
Turning Down Light Duty Can Imperil Disability Benefits
Regardless of the employer’s real motivation for offering a light duty job detail, once an adequate offer is made, workers generally have to accept it. Turning down an employer’s offer of light duty work will generally strip the victim of their workers’ compensation disability benefits for their lost wages.
Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at the Smith Law Office Serve St. Joseph
Light duty work serves an important middle ground in workers’ compensation law by allowing workers to partially return to work. However, as we will detail in our next blog post, the specifics in a light duty assignment can trigger significant legal issues and disputes.
The personal injury and workers’ compensation lawyers at the Smith Law Office serve accident victims in St. Joseph, Kansas City, Springfield, and the rest of western Missouri. Contact them online or call them at (816) 875-9373 for help.