Workers’ Comp Light Duty in California
Per California Code of Regulations§ 10116.9(h), modified work or “light duty” means regular work modified so that the employee has the ability to perform all the functions of the job and that offers wages and compensation that are at least 85 percent of those paid to the employee at the time of injury, and located within a reasonable commuting distance of the employee’s residence at the time of injury.
Light Duty Defined Under Workers’ Comp?
If you were injured in 2013 or later and your employer can offer you work, the claims administrator must send you a “Notice of Offer of Regular, Modified, or Alternative Work” on DWC-AD form 10133.35.
The claims administrator must send this to you within 60 days after the claims administrator learns you have a permanent partial disability that has become permanent and stationary, or “P&S”.
Your primary treating physician or another physician who makes this determination must complete and send the claims administrator a report of your permanent and stationary status and work capacity on DWC-AD form 10133.36.
The offer must be for a job that you are able to perform. In addition, the job must:
- Meet the work restrictions in the doctor’s report
- Last at least 12 months
- Be within a reasonable commuting distance of where you lived at the time of injury.
The offer could involve one of the following:
- Regular work. This is your usual job or position at the time of injury. It must pay the same wages and benefits that you were paid at the time of injury.
- Modified work. This is your old job with changes that meet the doctor’s work restrictions. It must pay at least 85 percent of the wages and benefits that you were paid at the time of injury.
- Alternative work. This is work that is different from your old job and meets the doctor’s work restrictions. It must pay at least 85 percent of the wages and benefits that you were paid at the time of injury. If your employer offers you work that meets all of the requirements described above:
- You have only 30 days to accept the offer. If you don’t respond within 30 days, your employer could withdraw the offer.
- The claims administrator won’t be required to offer you a supplemental job displacement benefit. This is true whether or not you accept the offer
What is Considered Light Duty in California?
Light or modified duty is a temporary work modification given to an injured worker in order to accommodate their physical restrictions while recovering from the injury. Upon filing a workers’ compensation case, injured worker is expected to continue working if it is determined they can safely perform the modified duty.
Modified work involves working with the same employer with less physical demands of the job. Modified duty or restricted work enables the injured worker to keep working while they recover from their work injury.
The modified work depends on two parts:
1) modified work restriction given by a doctor; and
2) the employer’s ability to find work for the injured worker within the allotted restrictions.
Light Duty After a Work Injury
Soon after your injury, the primary treating physician examines you and sends a report to the claims administrator and employer about your medical condition. If the doctor says you are able to work, he or she should describe the following:
- Clear and specific limits, if any, on your job tasks while recovering. These are called “work restrictions.” They should be based on full and accurate information from you and your employer about the activities and demands of your job. They are intended to protect you from further injury. An example of this is no lifting over 50 pounds at any time. No lifting over 30 pounds more than 10 times per hour. No lifting over 30 pounds more than 15 minutes per hour
- Changes needed, if any, in your schedule, assignments, equipment, or other working conditions while recovering. An example of this is providing headset to avoid awkward positions of the head and neck.
If the doctor reports that you cannot work at all while recovering, you cannot be required to work.
Light Duty and Workers’ Comp Benefit Amount?
In an accepted claim, an injured worker will be examined by a “primary treating physician” (PTP) who decides which physical activities an injured worker is able to do while recovering from an injury.
At this juncture, the employer informs the injured worker if it can offer the injured worker modified work or light duty within the physical limits given by the primary treating physician.
In the event the employer indicates there is no modified work or light duty available, an injured worker will receive temporary disability benefits for his or her lost wages.
Refusing Light Duty
However, an injured worker who is offered but refuses restricted work or light duty will not receive temporary disability benefits for the time he or she is not working.
Light duty FAQs
Can you get workers' comp while on light duty?
Yes, if the workers’ compensation claim is accepted and the employer indicates there is no modified work or light duty available, an injured worker will receive temporary disability benefits for his or her lost wages.
Can I refuse light duty on workers’ comp?
Yes, an injured worker who is offered but refuses restricted work or light duty will not receive temporary disability benefits for the time he or she is not working. Often, injured workers refuse light duty because they disagree with the primary treating physician’s recommendation on modified or light duty.
The injured worker may be in exorbitant pain with modified work and/or feel that the light duty provided is intended to ridicule or penalize the injured worker (paper cutting, sitting in a room for 8 hours). California Work Injury Law Center can help you navigate the workers’ compensation process, specifically any offer of modified duty by your employer.