California workers’ compensation law aims to protect injured workers and provide them with the benefits they need to regain their quality of life as best as possible. Two of the benefits of workers’ compensation are temporary and permanent disability benefits. These benefits financially compensate for an injured worker who has a limited ability to work or can no longer work. Workers who can work at a limited capacity may be asked to continue working. However, their duties will be adjusted to compensate for their current limitations.
Modified work is when workers can continue their duties in some capacity as long as modifications are made to accommodate their disability. Workers are typically expected to remain at their current job if they can do so with or without modifications. Light duty means working under the same employer but with different work duties intended to accommodate for the worker’s injuries.
These may mean omitting duties that involve heavy lifting, carrying, or pulling that may worsen the worker’s existing injuries. An employer may also give the worker a different position at the workplace that requires less strenuous activity or avoids triggering the worker’s specific injury. The type of modified or light work and the accommodation needed will depend on the diagnosis and work restrictions given by a doctor. The employer then needs to determine if they can give the injured employee work based on the restrictions imposed by the employee’s doctor. If the employer cannot provide modified or light work for the employee, the employee can receive temporary disability benefits until they return to work.
Employees are not guaranteed disability coverage if they don’t need it. Only those eligible for temporary or permanent disability benefits can receive those benefits in their compensation. Workers are eligible for disability coverage when they are unable to perform their job duties and if their employer is unable to assign them light or modified work. If an employer offers modified or light duty to the worker, the worker can refuse to accept the modified duty. However, it will affect their workers’ comp benefits. Workers can potentially lose vocational rehabilitation benefits and temporary disability benefits.
Moreover, an employer is not required to wait for the employee to recover from a workplace injury. As long as the employer is not retaliating against the employee seeking or obtaining workers’ comp, the employer can choose not to keep the worker’s position open until they return. Employers are required by the California Family Rights Act to give employees twelve weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for medical reasons. After those twelve weeks, employers can choose to let the worker go. The employee is still guaranteed appropriate workers’ comp benefits.
If the employee finds that the modified duty is still too difficult for their injuries or that the light work violates the established restrictions, they can ask their doctor to change their work restrictions. If their doctor determines that the employee’s injuries require more or different modifications, the employer must offer different light work duties. If the employer cannot offer different light work duties, the employee can collect temporary disability benefits.
KCNS Law Group has decades of experience helping injured workers protect their rights and recover the fair compensation they deserve. Our workers’ comp attorneys have detailed knowledge and experience in workers’ compensation application and defense. We understand the tactics insurance companies use to deny claims or offer low settlements, which is why we utilize powerful strategies to counter them and help recover the full amount our clients are owed. You can schedule a consultation by calling (818) 937-9255 or filling out our contact form.