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Have you been released to return to work?
If your doctor has determined you are capable of returning to work, there are some important facts you need to be aware of to make your transition as smooth as possible. Some important topics include: (1) Your relationship with your employer, (2) Your eligibility for monetary benefits, and (3) Your eligibility for medical treatment once you return to work. The links below will provide information related to the most frequently asked questions on these important topics:
What options do I have if I do not feel I am ready to return to work?
- In this instance you should remember that only your treating physician can place you, or keep you, in a no-work status.
- You should remember that if your treating physician releases you to return to work, you are required by law to make a good-faith effort to return to work.
- Under the law, if you fail or refuse to return to work, you forfeit your eligibility for lost wage benefit payments (440.15(6), F.S.
In my line of work there is no such thing as light duty. What are my options?
- The most important thing to remember is that only your employer can determine if light or restricted duty is available.
- The workers’ compensation insurance carrier will only accept the opinion of your employer regarding the availability of light or restricted duty.
- Therefore, you need to make sure your employer is the person who lets the insurance company know whether light or restricted duty is available.
What do I do if my employer does not abide by the restrictions given to me by my doctor?
- In this situation the most important thing to remember is: you should not take yourself out of work.
- You should contact your workers’ compensation insurance adjustor and make that person aware of the situation.
- You may also wish to contact your workers’ compensation doctor so that he can re-evaluate his order to release you to return to work.
- If your employer sends you home you must make sure your employer agrees to inform their workers’ compensation insurance carrier that they do not have light or restricted duty, if not, your benefit payments may be interrupted.
What do I do if my employer tells me to go home?
- If your employer sends you home you must make sure your employer agrees to inform their workers’ compensation insurance carrier that they do not have light or restricted duty available for you.
- If your employer fails to provide this information to their insurance carrier, you may not be able to receive compensation for your lost wages.
- If you have a personnel or human resources department, try and make sure that office contacts the insurance carrier and lets them know they do not have light duty for you.
- You may also wish to call your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance carrier and let the adjustor handling your claim know your employer has sent you home.
What do I do if the light duty is making my injury worse?
- If you feel that the light duty work being provided by your employer is making your injury worse, you should contact your workers’ compensation doctor and make an appointment to have your work status re-evaluated.
- At that point the doctor will either: 1) take you out of work totally, 2) change your work restrictions, or 3) leave your work status unchanged.
- If the doctor changes your work restrictions or leaves your work status unchanged, you would be required to return to work regardless of your complaints of pain or discomfort.
- If you fail or refuse to return to work, you forfeit your eligibility for any lost wage benefits you may be eligible to receive.
What do I do if I feel the doctor made a mistake in sending me back to work?
- You may try discussing this situation with your workers’ compensation doctor. Ask your doctor if he or she feels a second opinion is a good idea.
- If your treating physician is not willing to ask for a second opinion, another option would be to request a “one-time change of doctor” 440.13(2)(f), F.S.
- The law grants each injured employee one change of doctor over the life of his or her claim.
- Please remember: The insurance adjustor gets to pick your new doctor. In addition, your new doctor will have to have the same medical specialty as your current doctor.
- A final option would be an Independent Medical Evaluation (IME) 440.13(5), F.S. You must get approval from the carrier on your choice of evaluator. In addition, you must be prepared to pay all expenses associated with the evaluation.
What should I do while I wait for my second opinion, one time change or Independent Medical Evaluation?
- You should also be aware that asking for a second opinion, one-time change of doctor, or Independent Medical Evaluation does not negate the order to return to work.
- If you fail to return to work at that time, you forfeit your eligibility for lost wage benefit payments throughout the period of your absence from work.
- If you decide to stay out of work until you get a second opinion, change doctors, or get an IME, you should have your new doctor address your work status back to the date you were originally released to return to work.
- If the new doctor is unable or unwilling to address your work status retroactively, you will not be eligible for payment for the period between the time you were originally released to return to work, and the date you saw the new doctor.
Can I be fired while I am out on disability or restricted to light duty?
- Yes. There is no job protection under the workers’ compensation law. There is language in the law that prohibits an employer from firing, threatening to fire, or trying to coerce an employee simply because that employee files a workers’ compensation claim.
- However, in the State of Florida, an employer is at liberty to re-assign an injured employee, reduce the work hours of an injured employee, reduce the hourly rate of pay of an injured employee, or terminate the services of an employee who is physically unable to perform the duties of his or her job.
If my employer cuts my pay because I am on light duty, do I have to live on less money?
- The answer to this question depends on whether or not you have reached Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI), and how much of a pay cut you suffer.
- If you have reached MMI, the answer to this question is yes. After MMI you are no longer eligible for temporary lost wage benefit payments 440.15(2)(a), F.S.; and therefore, you would be forced to live on less money. However, if you reach MMI and you are assigned an Impairment Rating, you may be eligible to receive impairment income benefits (see Section 440.15(3), Florida Statutes).
- If you have NOT reached MMI and you have been released to return to work on light or restricted duty, and your restrictions cause you to lose MORE than 20 percent of your pre-injury Average Weekly Wage (AWW), you may be eligible to receive Temporary Partial Disability (TPD) benefit payments.
- Por ejemplo:
- Let’s assume your AWW is $100 per week. If you earn $80 or more per week while on light duty, you would NOT be eligible to receive any additional compensation.
- Now, let’s assume you return to work on light duty and you are only able to earn $70 per week. Because $80 is the cutoff for eligibility, the amount of your “actual” lost wage would be $10 (the difference between the $80 cutoff, and the amount you are able to earn once you return to work).
- Under the law, you are entitled to 80 percent of your “actual” lost wages in the form of compensation. This means the workers’ compensation insurance carrier would owe you $8 in benefit payments.
- When combined, your wages plus your compensation should total $78 per week.
Is my employer required to pay me for the time I spend attending medical appointments?
- No. Neither your employer nor their workers’ compensation insurance carrier is required to pay you for the time you spend attending medical appointments.
- You should try to schedule your appointments either before work, after work, or on the weekends.
- If none of these options will work for you, and you have access to sick leave or vacation leave, ask your employer if they will allow you to use leave to make up any wages you lose by attending medical appointments.
My employer wants to put me on FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act), is this legal?
- FMLA is a federal statute that allows employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for personal or family related medical issues. During this 12 week period the employee cannot be fired by his or her employer.
- Because there is no job protection under workers’ compensation, some employers will have their injured employees apply for coverage under the FMLA as a means of preserving that employee’s position with their company.