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Can injured workers turn down light-duty offers?

The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation approved 70,007 new claims in 2022. It is a busy system that sees a variety of cases.

Some workers receiving benefits may have an offer from their employer to take light-duty assignments. This may cause concern about whether they have the option to decline such offers without jeopardizing their workers’ compensation benefits.

General rule

The workers’ compensation system expects injured workers to cooperate with their employers when it comes to returning to work after an injury. The state also expects employers to make a genuine effort to accommodate an injured employee’s limitations by offering light-duty positions. These modified job roles minimize physical strain and facilitate the injured worker’s recovery.

Right to refuse

The situation becomes complex when an injured worker feels that the light-duty position is unsuitable or unsafe for their specific medical condition. In such cases, the worker might wonder if they have the right to decline the offer.

In most cases, if an injured worker refuses a legitimate and reasonable light-duty job offer without a valid reason, they risk losing their workers’ compensation benefits. This is because workers’ compensation sees refusing such an offer as a failure to mitigate damages. This is a legal principle that requires injured parties to take reasonable steps to minimize their losses.

If the offered light-duty position is significantly different from the worker’s regular job or poses a risk to the worker’s health, that may be a valid reason to decline.

Physician’s opinion

Another factor to consider is the opinion of the treating physician. In many cases, the treating physician’s assessment of the injured worker’s capabilities plays a pivotal role. If the doctor believes that the light-duty job is not appropriate given the worker’s medical condition, it can strengthen the worker’s position in declining the offer without jeopardizing their benefits.

Injured workers facing light-duty job offers must navigate a complex landscape of legal rights and obligations. There are valid reasons and protections in place that may allow injured workers to decline such offers.