After a recent work injury or illness, you feel well enough to get back to business in a limited capacity. Unfortunately, you do not feel comfortable with the modified duty assignment your employer chose. Can you refuse?
Chron explores when injured employees may turn down light duty assignments following an accident or injury. Understand your rights and obligations as an injured worker.
Breaking down modified duty
With modified duty, injured employees receive permission from a physician to return to work under a temporary work assignment while continuing to recover. Light duty should accommodate workers and their new limitations, allowing them to earn a living while getting back to full strength.
Understanding modified duty and workers’ compensation
If you turn down a light duty assignment while collecting workers’ compensation for a work-related illness or injury, your employer reserves the right to withhold a percentage or all of your benefits. Even then, you still have a position with the company if you do not use up your unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act.
Using the FMLA
In addition to workers’ comp, you may take up to 12 weeks off work to recover from an injury without losing your position under the FMLA. Unlike workers’ comp, you do not receive pay while on FMLA leave. If your employer offers you modified duty while on leave, you may turn it down without losing your job as long as you do not exhaust your FMLA leave eligibility window.
You may also refuse light duty if you use paid vacation time to recover from harm. Once you exhaust your paid vacation time and FMLA eligibility, your employer may terminate your position.
Understanding modified duty assignments may calm the anxiety you feel about going back to work while recovering. You should not do anything you do not feel comfortable with.