When a worker is injured on the job in Ohio and files for workers’ compensation benefits, they undergo a medical evaluation to determine the extent of their injuries. If the doctor determines that the employee’s physical restrictions prevent them from returning to their job, but the employer can offer a light-duty job that meets the worker’s restrictions, the worker might have to take that job instead of receiving benefits. However, the light-duty work offer must meet certain requirements. Employers cannot just offer any work to avoid paying disability compensation.
Light-Duty Work Requirements
Ohio workers who cannot return to their former position of employment due to a work injury are eligible to receive temporary total disability benefits. But if the employer offers the worker a different, temporary job that the worker is able to perform while they recover, benefits may be denied or terminated. This type of employment is known as light-duty employment. Light-duty employment must meet the following requirements:
- The job must be “suitable,” or within the employee’s physical capabilities (as determined by a doctor)
- The job must be within a “reasonable proximity” of the injured worker’s residence
- The job offer must be made in “good faith”
Ohio Administrative Code does not give an exact definition of the “reasonable proximity” portion of these requirements. In general, though, it means that an employer cannot require an employee to drive much further than they would normally drive to and from work.
The “good faith” requirement of a job offer is similarly vague. Essentially, it means that the employer cannot offer a job they know the employee won’t do, but Ohio courts have recently weighed in on this matter and provided greater clarity.
Good Faith Job Offer
Light-duty job offers are a way for employers to bring injured workers back into the workforce. It’s not enough, though, that a worker is medically able to perform a light-duty job. The job must be offered in good faith. And if a valid light-duty offer is made in good faith, an injured worker cannot reject it.
Is The Work Legitimate?
Various factors may be used to determine whether a light-duty job offer is made in good faith, including the legitimacy of the work offered. A job consisting of menial tasks or busywork could fail the good faith requirement.
In 2019, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled on a case where a man was denied disability benefits after abandoning a light-duty position he said was not made in good faith. In that case, the worker suffered foot and ankle injuries and was offered—and accepted—a light-duty position consisting of watching training videos on a computer and sorting paperwork. The worker alleged that the employer made him sit in the cafeteria with virtually nothing to do. He also argued that he was made to do this as a warning to other workers not to file for workers’ compensation. The Supreme Court ruled that the work failed the good faith requirement.
Valid Good Faith Offers Cannot Be Rejected
Assuming that a light-duty job offer is made in good faith, is of suitable employment (i.e., within the employee’s physical capabilities), and is within a reasonable proximity of the injured worker’s residence, the worker must accept the work offered, according to a ruling earlier this year by an Ohio appeals court.
In this case, the employee of a staffing agency suffered a knee sprain and was released to work with restrictions. The staffing agency offered her a job, but she refused the job due to a scheduling conflict. The Ohio Industrial Commission ruled that the job offer was made in good faith, and that the worker’s refusal of the job was also made in good faith, making her eligible for benefits. The employer appealed the decision to the court, which determined that the worker should not be awarded benefits, because she rejected the good-faith job offer for reasons unrelated to her injury.
Questions About Light-Duty Work? Graham & Graham Can Help
Light-duty work can be a reasonable way to keep an employee working while they recover from injury. But sometimes, employers use light-duty work as a way to reduce the costs of a workers’ compensation claim.
If you were offered light-duty work and have questions, Graham & Graham can review your claim to make sure it meets all the legal requirements. Our Ohio workers’ compensation lawyers assist claimants with filing appeals and can provide representation during hearings and court appearances. We offer free case reviews and handle most workers’ comp cases on a contingency-fee basis. Call 1-800-621-8585 or Contact Us to speak with a lawyer.