‘Light Duty’ Work Under the Workers’ Compensation System

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If you are injured at work, even if you are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits, there may come a time when your doctor clears you for “light duty” only. Significant consequences can ensue if you refuse to return, if you find that you are not capable of performing even light duty, if your employer refuses to allow you to “lighten” your work duties, and other related problems.

What Exactly is ‘Light Duty’?

Being put on ‘light duty’ means your employer either places you in a less physically or mentally demanding job for the time being, or alters your existing job in order to comply with the restrictions on your activity that were recommended by your doctor. In some cases your employer might intentionally create a new position designed specifically for you to perform.


Some examples of “light duty” work include:

  • Taking inventory
  • Performing safety inspections
  • Performing office work or working at a desk job
  • Undertaking supervising and reporting activities
  • Sorting mail
  • Monitoring CCTV cameras
  • Performing routine maintenance of machinery and equipment
  • Working on the telephone (in procurement, for example)
  • Mowing with a riding mower
  • Running errands by automobile

A doctor’s order for less mentally demanding work might even be satisfied by simply lowering work-related quotas or reducing work hours to relieve psychological pressure on you.

Light Duty and Social Security Benefits

Whether you receive workers’ compensation benefits while on light duty depends on its effect on your salary. If you receive the same amount while on light duty as you did before you accident, you will not be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits for your period on light duty. If you receive a significantly lower salary than you did before you got hurt, you will probably remain eligible for partial workers’ compensation benefits.

How to Avoid Damaging Your Claim

If your employer offers you light duty that is within the restrictions imposed by your doctor, you must either accept the offer or lose additional workers’ compensation benefits — it works a bit like applying for unemployment compensation after voluntarily quitting your job. Of course, you can request an extension of your starting date, but you will need to demonstrate a good reason for this request to be accepted.

Likewise, do not show up late, especially for your first day of light duty work, because that could be interpreted as a refusal to accept your employer’s offer, and it may be withdrawn. If your employer insists that you perform work that your doctor has forbidden, file an incident report with your employer, and notify your doctor immediately. If that is what is going on, you have every right to refuse — and if you push yourself too hard, you could re-injure yourself.

Act Quickly

Workers’ compensation problems work something like quicksand — the longer you wait to address them, the worse they tend to become. An experienced workers’ compensation lawyer can help you head off problems before they arise, and resolve problems in your favor if they do arise.

Contact Kentucky workers’ compensation lawyer Glenn Martin Hammond at (606) 437-7777, or fill out our online contact form, to schedule a free consultation where we can listen to your story and discuss your options. Remember — you only pay us if you win your claim.

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