Injured employees, light duty, and working from home

Date Posted: 11/19/2019

InjuryIf an employee gets injured and is unable to perform the usual job duties, you likely offer light duty. Providing light duty not only turns “days away” into “restricted work” on your 300 Log, but keeps the employee active in the workplace. This can help speed the employee’s recovery, maintain a routine of coming to work, and allow you to track how the employee is doing.

In some cases, an injured employee might be limited in the number of hours he can work each day. For example, perhaps the employee can work only four hours rather than the usual eight hours. This is still considered a restricted work case, not a lost time case.

It may also happen that an employee is physically able to perform some work, but is unable to report for to the workplace. For example, a knee injury may prevent the employee from driving, but he might still be able to perform some tasks from home (even if only light duty). Unfortunately, OSHA has said that if an employee works from home, the days will likely need to be recorded as lost time — even if the employee performs all routine job functions.

OSHA interpretation

Normally, if an employee performs all routine job functions, the injury is not a restricted work case. However, a letter of interpretation from August 26, 2008, addressed this question: If a clerical employee injures her knee and cannot report to work, but performs all usual job duties from home, is this considered lost time if she doesn’t ordinarily work at home?

OSHA noted that since working from home is not part of her normal schedule, the case would have to be recorded as days away, even though she’s performing all regular duties. However, OSHA did note that the answer would differ if she normally worked from home. For example, if she ordinarily worked from home two days per week, the employer could count two days of restriction and three days of lost time for each week of recovery.

Workers’ compensation

As that scenario shows, there may be cases where offering light duty or allowing an employee to work from home won’t change how the case is recorded on the 300 Log. However, assigning work (even light duty) may still be worthwhile for workers’ compensation purposes.

Generally, an employee who is unable to work will be eligible for wage replacement benefits through workers’ compensation. However, most states will deny (or reduce) those benefits if the employee refuses a light duty offer. Workers’ compensation is a type of insurance, and it won’t pay an employee who could be earning wages but simply refuses to accept the work

 

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