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Alternative Work

Definition - What does Alternative Work mean?

Workers injured performing their normal job duties or through the negligence of another person may, at some point in their recovery, be considered able to return to some type of employment. If the employment is some other job which is different than what they were performing prior to their injury this job is considered “alternative work.”

When will I have to return to alternative work?

State laws may vary, but in most states if a worker is injured on the job and receiving workers’ compensation payments they must return to work when their doctor determines they are able. In some states, if the worker refuses to perform the alternative job, they can have their work comp benefits reduced.

Ideally, if the employee is forced to return to alternative work due to their injuries, the employer will provide a “light” duty position. If the light duty work does not pay the employee a wage comparable to their previous job, in some states, the employer may be required to pay the worker the wage difference. Additionally, if the employer does not have an alternative job the worker can perform the employer may be required to pay additional benefits to worker.

What if my employer asks me to do alternative work I cannot do?

Unfortunately, some employers are not too accommodating when it comes to their injured employees. Regardless of the employer’s willingness, however, there are some steps an injured worker should take when they return to their job.

First, they should notify their employer of their work restrictions. Next, they should decline any work that explicitly is against the doctor’s orders. For instance, if you have a severe back injury and your doctor has restricted you to lifting no more than 15 pounds, if your employer asks you to lift a 50 pound bag of concrete, you should refuse.

Remember, if you are performing alternative work and your employer asks you to go against your doctor’s orders you cannot be fired if you refuse to perform work your doctor has stated you cannot do. For your protection, however, it is important to document all instances where you have been asked to perform work contrary to medical advice.

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