What You Need to Know About Medical Work Restrictions and Workers’ Comp in Wisconsin
If you are like most workers, you want to get back on the job as soon as you can, workers’ comp can help. After all, according to various studies and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “the chances of returning to work drop dramatically the longer the worker remains away from work.”
Even if employers are not pressuring their employees to return to work, many injured workers try to get back as soon as possible to:
- Reconnect with co-workers.
- Regain their sense of purpose in life.
- Put their injury behind them.
- Earn a paycheck.
However, your injuries may prevent you from returning to the same position. This is because they could prevent you from being able to complete all the same duties you held prior to the work accident. But, it may be possible to return to work on light duty, or with certain medical work restrictions that take into account your ongoing pain and disability.
A Wisconsin workers’ comp attorney can help you navigate the many complexities of Wisconsin’s worker’s comp system, including the specific return to work pathways and work restricted light duty.
What is a Medical Work Restriction?
A medical work restriction is any modification to your previous duties caused by your injury, which is not yet healed or has caused a long-term or permanent disability. There are two types of work restrictions:
A work restriction caused by a disability is simply a modification of your duties caused by an inability to do a certain task. For example, your disability (either temporary or permanent), caused by loss of strength and mobility following shoulder surgery, may prohibit you from lifting objects more than 20 pounds.
A Prophylactic work restriction is one that is created to make sure the employee does not hurt themself further. For example, you may have white finger syndrome caused by using vibrating tools at work. While it is technically possible for you to continue using such a tool, a prophylactic work restriction would restrict you from doing so. This is because further use of these tools would cause more damage to your nerves, and worsen your condition. Examples of medical work restrictions include the following:
- A modified work schedule
- Additional breaks or rests
- Seated-only work
- No lifting 30 pounds or more
- No lifting 20 pounds or more
- No lifting a certain amount of weight a specified number of times per shift
- No squatting or kneeling
- No above-shoulder reaching or lifting
- No using a particular machine, device, instrument, vehicle, or tool
- No longer doing the repetitive movement that caused the injury in the first place
You Need to Document Your Work Restrictions
Any work restrictions you have need to be created by a medical professional. Any such medical documents or doctor’s notes need to be preserved so it is highly recommended to make copies. Then, share these documents with your employer as evidence of your ongoing disability and need for a modified workload.
The most important part of this process is to make sure that your doctor understands the nature of your job and the demands it presents. Also, they recognize the condition you are in, and that they create the medical work restrictions you need to heal while returning to work.
What if I Don’t Want to Return to Work Yet, Even With Modified Duties?
Sometimes doctors (who are picked by the employer’s workers’ comp insurance carrier) decide that an employee is fine to return to work on light duty or with medical restrictions. This can happen even when the workers themselves do not agree. The pain may still be too great to return to work, and only you know your own level of pain. It cannot really be measured by a doctor.
However, according to the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD), if your doctor recommends it, you should make an attempt to return to work, even if you are not 100% healed or ready for it. By doing so, you are in a better position to receive workers’ compensation benefits than if you simply refuse to go back to work.
Your Employer Does Not Have to Rehire You
If you get hurt on the job, the state of Wisconsin does not require that your employer re-hires you when you are able to go back to work. Though it certainly is illegal for your employer to fire you for filing a workers’ comp claim, your employer does not legally have to hold that position for your return. But, if suitable employment is available, and it is “within your physical and mental limitations, your employer should offer you the employment,” according to the DWD. And, if your employer does not rehire you for this position in these circumstances, it is within your rights to file a claim for wage compensation, equal to up to 12 months of wages. As such, you should not feel pressured to return to work without the medical restrictions that your doctor ordered.
If your employer tries to strong-arm you into doing something against the interests of your own health, you need to talk to an attorney at once, because your rights have just been violated.
Reduced Wages For Part Time Work or Different Position
Your employer does not have to pay you the same wages as you received prior to your injury if you are returning on a part-time basis, or on light/restricted duty. This means that you could end up returning to work, still injured from a work-caused injury, getting paid less than you used to. Fortunately, the difference in your income can be made up by temporary partial disability (TPD) benefits.
Call a Wisconsin Workers’ Comp Lawyer Today
Returning to work before you are 100 percent healed is a tricky situation. On one hand, your desire to get back to work and earn an income is legitimate. On the other, resting and recovering for a longer period of time may result in better and more complete healing. These goals need to be balanced.
For legal help ensuring that your physical and financial health are both taken into account, call the Wisconsin workers’ compensation lawyers at Gillick, Wicht, Gillick & Graf today for a free consultation.