If I have medical restrictions after a job-related injury, is my employer required to find work for me?

Work injuries are very common across the country, and the state of Iowa offers some of the most generous workers’ compensation benefits in the nation. There are a many different types of benefits available that seek to address a wide variety of injury and work situations, and the state offers higher compensation than many other states.

There are still many questions, however, when it comes to benefits eligibility and returning to work. One common issue arises when an injured worker is cleared by his doctor to go back to the job, but restrictions are placed on the duties that can be performed. In some cases, these limitations are easily managed, with the employee able to complete essential job functions and go forward as before the injury. In other cases, however, the restrictions may be more inconvenient to work around. What options do employers and employees have in these situations? The answer depends on the type of work and the prognosis for the employee.

Determining Work Restrictions and Appropriate Duties

An employee’s fitness to return to work, with or without restrictions, is left to the discretion of the worker’s doctor. Only a physician can set restrictions, and he can do so by filling out a work status report after an appointment. The employee himself cannot determine the limitations of his work; employers are bound only by the report of a doctor.

Additionally, it is the responsibility of the employee to share the physician’s recommendations with his employer within one business day of the appointment. This allows the employer time to consider the restrictions and find appropriate work for the injured employee.

Employers Are Required to Comply With Restrictions After an Injury

If an employee is injured and is limited in his ability to perform job duties by a doctor, Iowa employers are required to comply with the restrictions. If they cannot do so, they must allow the employee to remain out of work and receive weekly temporary total disability benefits.

There are many modifications that an employer may be able to arrange to meet the new restrictions. Some of the most common modifications employers make to comply with restrictions include:

  • Light duty work
  • Reduced workload
  • Use of adaptive equipment

In many cases, however, it is just not possible for the injured worker to perform the same job duties as before the accident. Employers may move the employee to a completely new position for the short term, until he is fully recovered and able to return to his previous position.

For their part, employees must accept any modified or light duty work offered by the employee, as long as it meets the restriction requirements. Refusing to do so could result in the loss of workers’ compensation benefits. Additionally, if the injured worker and the employer disagree on the type of work that is appropriate, it is important to document the situation and seek legal guidance.

Temporary Partial Disability Benefits Can Help During Limited Work

In addition to having a right to modified work, an injured employee can reasonably expect to earn income that is similar to that earned before the injury. If this is not possible because of the restrictions, the employee may be able to receive both a paycheck and temporary partial disability benefits. Temporary partial disability benefits pay two-thirds of the difference between the employee’s average gross weekly earnings at the time of the injury and the employee’s actual earnings while temporarily working at the lesser paying, modified job.

When an Employer Does Not Have to Comply With Work Restrictions

While an employer must do what he can to promote an employee’s ability to work and return to full duty, he is not obligated to find work for an employee at all times. Restricted work is not intended to address permanent limitations, according to the Iowa Department of Administrative Services. The initial restriction period is mandated at 20 days or when the restrictions are lifted by the treating doctor, whichever is less. Extensions can be granted based most often on the opinion of the treating doctor. After that time, it is possible that the employer will determine that he is unable to offer appropriate work on an ongoing basis.

The Family and Medical Leave Act and the Americans With Disabilities Act afford additional protections for injured employees whose restrictions become permanent. These cases can be complicated, however, and an experienced attorney can help workers understand their rights and take the most effective steps to protect them.

While in general an employer must accept the restrictions of an injured employee, every situation is unique, and there are many different types of benefits that can aid injured workers. At Pothitakis Law Firm, our experienced legal team can help you fully understand all your options and pursue the maximum amount of compensation for you and your family. Take a moment to fill out our contact form on this page, and you’ll receive a prompt response from a member of our team who can answer your questions and schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.