Adapting to Your Work Injury: The Significance of 'Light Duty' in New Jersey Workers’ Compensation
“Light Duty” refers to a type of work assignment given to employees who are unable to perform their regular job duties due to a physical restriction. In the context of New Jersey workers’ compensation, this term often arises when an injured worker is recovering but not yet fit for full-duty tasks. The intent is to allow the worker to continue working while accommodating their medical limitations.
Imagine Sarah, an employee at a warehouse, who injured her back in a work-related accident. Her physician believes she can work as she recovers but should avoid heavy lifting. Instead of her usual role of stacking large boxes, her employer assigns her to inventory tasks, which require minimal physical strain. This inventory assignment represents a “light duty” role tailored to Sarah’s current capabilities, as documented by her authorized treating physician.
Within the Work Injury Claim
When a worker gets injured on the job, their return to the workplace might need certain adjustments to accommodate their recovery. “Light Duty” serves as a bridge, allowing the employee to be productive without risking further injury or impeding recovery. The key here is communication between the injured worker, their physician, and their employer to determine the best possible light-duty assignment.
Authorized Treating Physician’s Role: The physician assesses the worker’s condition and provides recommendations about what tasks the worker should avoid or can safely perform. It’s crucial for the injured worker to ensure that the physician explicitly documents the limitations that warrant a light-duty assignment.
Before considering “light duty” or “modified duty,” the injured worker should have a detailed discussion with the authorized treating physician. It is crucial for the physician to document the specific limitations that warrant such an assignment. This ensures that when the worker returns to their job, the employer knows exactly what tasks the worker can and cannot perform, preventing further injury and misunderstandings.
The employer considers the physician’s recommendations and assigns a suitable light-duty position to the injured worker if one is otherwise available based on the business’s needs and available roles. The goal is to ensure the safety and well-being of the worker while maintaining operational efficiency.
Injured Worker's Role
The worker should engage in open communication with both the physician and the employer, discussing any discomforts or concerns they might have regarding their light-duty role. Their feedback is essential in fine-tuning the assignment and ensuring it’s beneficial for both the worker’s health and the business.
If an injured worker feels that the light duty assignment isn’t suitable or exacerbates their condition, they can discuss their concerns with the authorized treating physician and their employer. Adjustments can be made, or in some cases, the worker may be taken off light-duty work entirely until further recovery.
By offering a “Light Duty” role, employers demonstrate a commitment to the well-being of their staff, ensuring that injured workers can remain productive and valued members of the team without compromising their health.
If the employer cannot provide a suitable light-duty role or if the treating physician deems that no form of work is currently appropriate, the injured worker will typically continue to receive TTD benefits until they can return to work or reach maximum medical improvement. TTD benefits cannot be terminated due to the offer of light-duty work when the injured worker is unable to perform the work safely.