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Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation: Can my employer force me to perform alternative duty work?

QUESTION:

IF YOU ARE NOT FULLY RECOVERED, BUT ARE CAPABLE OF RETURNING TO WORK, CAN YOUR EMPLOYER FORCE YOU TO DO SOME ALTERNATE FORM OF WORK IN ORDER TO CUT OFF YOUR WEEKLY CHECKS?

ANSWER:

In the event that you have been released to return to work in some fashion, but you have not yet fully recovered from your work injuries, your employer is permitted to offer you employment in order to bring you back to work. If you return to work, your employer and its insurance carrier will be able to stop your wage loss benefits or modify those benefits, so that the impact in terms of Workers’ Compensation payments would be decreased. In this particular situation, your employer can essentially offer you any form of employment they so choose, in order to bring you back to work. They do not have to bring you back to your pre-injury position, especially if that position is beyond your physical restrictons. The crucial issue is whether or not you are earning equal to or in excess of your pre-injury wages. If you are earning equal to or in excess of your pre-injury wages, your Workers’ Compensation indemnity benefits or wage loss checks could be stopped or suspended. If, on the other hand, you are earning less than your pre-injury wages, you will be entitled to 2/3 of the difference between your Average Weekly Wage, as compared to the wages you are actually earning.

In this situation, we are often asked whether you can be forced to do some job different from that which you normally perfromed. The answer is absolutely. Throughout our years of experiecne, as Workers' Compenation attorneys, MHK Attorneys, has seen individual workers put into a variety of different positions, that were outside their normal job description. By way of example, we have seen productiion workers, that may have worked on a production line, forced to simply sit in a chair for their entire shift. We have also seen a worker at a food plant, who used to work production, be required to peel bananas or open candy bars for an entire shift. We have also had truck drivers, who were forced to paint signs and railings for an entire shift or work in a guard shack for their entire shift. Such job modifications are completely and totally appropriate. As a result, injured workers are forced to perfrom these alternate duty jobs.

To the extent you are given job duties outside of your restrictions, you should bring it to the attention of your supervisor. We always recommend that you become familiar with your specific restrictions, so that if there is an activity outside of those restrictions, you can inform your supervisor of the same. If you continue to be forced to perform duties that are outside of your restrictions, it is a good idea to contact your treating physician, and make them aware of this discrepancy, so that they can take appropriate actions with regard to your restrictions.

Additional resources provided by the author

If you have any questions, feel free to contact MHK Attorneys at the website listed below. You can also look for valuable information on the website for the Pennsylvania Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, which link follows: http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/workers'_compensation/10386

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