I’m on Workers’ Comp, but now my doctor says I can do modified job duties.

Did you get injured at work and go on Workers’ Compensation disability because you were unable to do your job?  Now your doctor says you can do a modified job with some physical restrictions.  Is your comp going to get cut?  Does your employer have to find you a job?

When you are completely out of work due to an injury sustained at work and your claim has been picked up by the Workers’ Comp carrier, or you have filed a claim petition and won, you should be on what is called Temporary Total Disability or TTD.  At some point your doctor may release you to return to work with restrictions.  For example you may get a return to work note with restrictions like “lift no more than 10 lbs, and not above the shoulder” or “no standing longer than 3 hours”.

If your time of injury employer has a job vacancy in your area that you are capable of performing based on your restrictions, they are required by law to offer you that available job.  If this happens you should try the job, and make a strong, good faith effort to do the job.  If you don’t respond to that job offer, or you refuse to take the offered job your employee can file to modify or suspend your benefits, which can cause you to risk the loss of your benefits more than if you try and cannot do the job.  If your employer attempts to modify or suspend your benefits and you do not already have an attorney you should contact one as soon as possible.  If you try and cannot work with the restrictions or your employer violates the restrictions see your Doctor urgently and be on the lookout for a notice from the insurance company called a “notice of suspension” or “notice of modification”.  You must challenge that notice within 20 days.

Before modifying, or trying to end your benefits an Employer may hire a vocational expert to conduct an earning capacity evaluation, and do a labor market survey.  The function of an earning capacity evaluation is to determine how much you are capable of earning in your area based on your skills, education, and work restrictions.  They will use what they find to do a labor market survey to find jobs they think you can do in your work area.  If you live anywhere in the Lehigh Valley your work area consists of the entire valley.  Even if you live in Easton the vocational expert can locate jobs for you in Fogelsville.  Your employer does not have to actually get you the job.  They only have to show that jobs you can do were actually available.  Often, they aren’t actually available because they have already been filled, or you don’t meet the requirements for the job.  However, if a labor market survey is conducted and you are given a list of jobs the expert says are available, you should apply for each and every one of those jobs.  It is very important to demonstrate good faith, and attempt to obtain a job.

Are you healing from your injury, and working again, but you aren’t making as much money as you were making at your pre-injury job?  Can your employer stop your benefits?  No!  Your employer must modify your benefits and pay you Temporary Partial Disability or TPD, which is a percentage of the difference between what you were making pre-injury, and what you are making now.

If you return to work but are unable to do the job because of your injury you should contact an attorney.  If you don’t take a job that is offered, or a job your employer shows is available your employer will be legally allowed to pay you only partial disability, and you will be receiving significantly less in disability benefits.  Don’t let this happen to you.