While you are out of work recovering from your injury, you’ll likely be receiving workers’ compensation benefits to cover your salary and medical expenses. This safety net can give you peace of mind and financial security so that you can focus on healing and then return to work when you’ve gotten clearance from your physician.
Sometimes, you may be able to return to work during your healing. Your supervisor may modify your role, or you could end up doing something entirely different. This is commonly referred to as “light duty.”
But what happens if your employer decides to fire you while you’re on light duty? Can you still get workers’ comp benefits? We’ll answer that question in this article.
What Is Light Duty?
Light duty may involve working shorter shifts, doing labor that’s less physically demanding, or making other modifications that allow you to be productive in the workplace without compromising your health.
During light duty, your benefits may be affected in one of two ways:
- If your salary under light duty is the same, you’ll no longer receive lost wage benefits.
- If your salary is lower, you’ll still receive benefits such as “partial disability.”
Regardless of any salary disparity, all of your medical expenses related to your work injury will continue to be paid.
If you decline an offer for light work even though your doctor has authorized it, you could jeopardize your ability to receive any benefits. You are entitled to seek a second opinion if you feel like you are being forced to return to work before you’re healed.
What If I Get Fired While on Light Duty?
Though being on light duty seems like an ideal compromise, it’s normal to be worried that you could still get fired. This is especially true if your job is primarily physical and you’re unable to perform any or all of your formal duties. An employer may feel that it’s not economical to keep you on the payroll if you can no longer do the job for which you were hired.
Because Virginia is an at-will employment state, you can potentially be fired for any reason that does not fall within a civil rights violation. Your employer is also prohibited from terminating you as a form of retaliation for filing a workers’ compensation claim. Remember, it is perfectly within your rights to receive benefits such as lost wages and medical treatment for an injury you sustained on the job.
An employer does have the right to reject a doctor’s return to work authorization, which means you can continue to stay home until you are recovered enough to resume your typical duties.
If you get fired while on light duty, it may be within the employer’s rights to end your employment with the company. The good news is that if you are not fully recovered at the time of the termination, you are most likely still entitled to continue receiving workers’ compensation benefits.
There are varying rules on this matter, depending on whether or not you were fired for cause. An attorney can discuss your situation and help you determine what your rights are.
Do You Need Help with Your Workers’ Compensation Case?
Workers’ compensation laws can be complex. Whether you are struggling to claim your benefits or you’ve faced wrongful termination, the team at Geoff McDonald & Associates is here to help. Contact us for a free consultation.