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Suspension of Weekly Workers’ Comp Benefits Possible When Employer Offers Work

Those who are hurt on the job may not be able to return to their regular duties, either temporarily or permanently. This can affect the amount of benefits to which an injured employee in an Atlanta workers’ compensation case is entitled, so it is an important distinction.

From a monetary standpoint, the employer (or its insurance company) typically pays out a much smaller amount in benefits when an employee is able to go back to his or her regular job following a work injury. Thus, there is a substantial financial incentive to try to get an injured employee back on the job as soon as possible.

However, the employee may or may not be physically capable of performing the tasks that he or she did prior to the accident. Each situation is unique, and the issue of whether the employee made a meaningful return to pre-injury employment must be decided on the specific facts of each case. In addition, there is a specific process that must be followed when an employer wants to bring an injured employee back to modified duty work.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, an employee suffered an injury on the job that both parties agreed was compensable. Specifically, the worker suffered bilateral carpal tunnel injuries to his wrists and hands, due to his repetitive operation of a hammer drill and other heavy duty, vibrating tools. The employee had surgery and was placed on a “no-work” status by his doctor for a period of time.

The doctor released the employee to return to work on light duty, and the employer contacted the employee with an offer to come back to work at a position that would purportedly comply with the work restrictions placed by the physician. The employee returned to work temporarily but found that he could not perform his tasks. He later made a second attempt to return to a light duty job but again stopped working due to pain. The employer made a third offer, but the employee did not return to work again.

The employer then sought to end the worker’s temporary total disability benefits on the basis that he had unjustifiably refused suitable employment.

Holding of the State Board

The state workers’ compensation board allowed the employer to suspend the employee’s income benefits, holding that, while the first two jobs offered to the employee were not suitable, the employee was unjustified in refusing to attempt the third job offered to him by the employer. As grounds, the tribunal cited O.C.G.A. § 34-9-240(a), which states that temporary total disability benefits may be suspended if an employee refuses, without justification, suitable work offered by the employer. Unlike the administrative law judge from whose decision the employer appealed, the full board reversed the decision, finding that the employer had made “considerable efforts to accommodate” the worker’s complaints and “reasonably provide him” with suitable work, given his post-injury physical condition.

Get Help With Your Atlanta Workers’ Compensation Case

What are the injured worker’s responsibilities when it comes to a return to work? Speaking to an experienced attorney about your case may be the only way to receive the full benefits to which you are entitled. While your employer or its insurance company may tell you that you do not need a lawyer, the fact is that you have the legal right to hire a knowledgeable Atlanta workers’ compensation lawyer to help with your case, and those who hire counsel usually receive more benefits than those who do not. To schedule a free consultation, call the Law Offices of T. Andrew Miller, LLC, today at 678-605-9109.