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What Does Light Duty Mean for my Work Comp Case?

Written by Brent Eames

September 22, 2021

Nobody ever plans on getting injured while performing their work duties, but unfortunately, work accidents happen daily and affect first responders in almost every department across the state. If your injury arose out of and in the course of your employment, and you are temporarily disabled from working for your employer, then you should be entitled to payment of benefits pursuant to the Public Employee Disability Act until your doctor clears you to return to full duty work. At the conclusion of the 365 days provided by PEDA, if you are still temporarily disabled, you will be entitled to temporary disability benefits pursuant to the Workers’ Compensation Act. These TTD payments are designed to provide some financial support to the injured worker and his or her family while on the road to medical recovery. However, what happens when your doctor provides some work restrictions, but does not completely limit you from returning to work? This opens the door for your employer to require that you work a light-duty position until you are no longer restricted from your full job duties. Keep reading to learn more with regard to what our best Chicago Work Comp Attorney has to say about light duty positions in Illinois workers’ compensation cases and PEDA cases.

What is a light-duty position?

 A light-duty position is intended to accommodate an injured worker’s temporary physical or mental limitations caused by a work-related injury. The accommodations offered by the light-duty position are usually based upon the restrictions issued by the worker’s treating medical professional.  A light-duty position is usually temporary and should be much less demanding than the position the worker held before the injury. For example, somebody with a back injury who was required to lift heavy inventory as part of his or her duties prior to the injury can receive a light-duty restriction prohibiting such worker from lifting more than 5 pounds and requiring a position that is more sedentary. Often times, the definition of light duty work will be covered by your collective bargaining agreement.  

Will I receive any PEDA or Workers’ Compensation benefits while working light duty?

Although the injured worker will continue to receive all owed medical benefits, a worker who accepts, and is able to perform a light-duty position which results in no loss of earning capacity will not receive any temporary total disability benefits or PEDA benefits during the worker’s medical treatment. Without a loss of earning capacity which comes from an inability to work, the worker will not be eligible for payments aside from their normal wages. However, if the light duty position results in diminished hours or a reduced rate of pay, the worker should still receive Temporary Partial Disability (TPD) benefits pursuant to the Workers’ Compensation Act. These TPD benefits are payable if the amount the worker will be making will be less than what the worker was making without a light-duty restriction. The TPD benefits should constitute 66  2/3% of the difference between the injured worker’s average weekly wage received prior to the injury, and the gross weekly income the worker is making while working under the light-duty restriction.   

Does my employer have to offer a light-duty position, and do I have to accept it?

The first place to check to see what your employer’s light duty policy will be should be the collective bargaining agreement. Often times, the CBA will contain a provision which regulates when and how an employer will offer a light duty position. However, generally, there is no mandatory requirement imposed on Illinois employers under the Workers’ Compensation Act to offer a light-duty position to injured workers. However, in certain circumstances, an employer may be required to offer such a position if one is available to avoid any allegations of discrimination. Nevertheless, if the offer of a light-duty position is made and it provides accommodations recommended by the injured worker’s treating medical providers, then the worker will likely be required to accept the position. If the position is declined, the worker will likely not be eligible to receive his or her work comp payments for temporary disability. Further, refusing an offer of light duty could be considered an abandonment of employment which might result in the loss of the worker’s job! On the other hand, if the worker is completely restricted from work, or if the employer cannot offer a light-duty position within the appropriate restrictions, the worker is eligible to receive PEDA benefits as if totally disabled, or Temporary Total Disability (TTD) benefits which are equal to 66 2/3% of the average weekly wages the worker earned prior to the work-related injury.

Trusted Advice on How to Obtain Work Comp Payments

No one wants to face a work-related injury, the stress of recovery, and a loss of income. Granted, it’s not an ideal situation. But at Eames Law Group, you have a team of dedicated and experienced compensation attorneys to fight in your corner.

If you’re looking for additional advice or legal support on how to prove a back injury at work, get in touch with our firm, and talk to the top work comp attorney in Chicago today.

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