Minnesota Workers’ Compensation: Work Restrictions

Several workers dig a pit at a construction site while supervisors watch from above.

One of the most important factors in any Minnesota workers’ compensation case is the nature and extent of any light duty work restrictions that have been assigned to the injured worker. If you’ve sustained an on-the-job injury in Minnesota, and your doctor has instructed you to limit or restrict your work and/or leisure activities, these limitations are referred to as work restrictions. Generally, in order to claim entitlement to Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Benefits, an injured worker must demonstrate restrictions on his or her ability to perform her normal work duties.
Your doctor may provide you with a workability report documenting your limitations, or he or she may instruct you to avoid performing specific work activities. If you have concerns about your ability to perform your normal job activities following a work injury, it is critical that you discuss these concerns with your doctor. If your doctor tells you to restrict your work activities, you need to have your doctor provide you with a note or workability form documenting your limitations. Documentation of your work limitations as the result of a work injury must be provided to your employer. Your employer may offer you a light duty job to accommodate your restrictions.

As Minnesota workers’ compensation attorneys, here are some common questions that we as are asked about work restrictions in the context of Minnesota workers’ compensation:

What if I can’t do my job because of my light duty restrictions?

  • If you can’t perform your normal job duties, your employer may provide you with light duty work, they may make accommodations to your job duties to meet your restrictions, or they may give you an alternative assignment that is within your limitations. If your employer cannot accommodate your restrictions, and as a result, you can’t work at your regular job, you may be entitled to Minnesota workers’ compensation wage loss benefits and/or rehabilitation benefits.

I’m afraid that I will be fired if I report my work restrictions. What should I do?

  • If you are injured at work in Minnesota, you’re required to provide documentation of any work restrictions to your employer. Failure to do so can hurt your legal rights. More importantly, however, if you continue to work outside your restrictions, you may make your injury worse. Your employer cannot fire you for having work restrictions under Minnesota Statute § 176.82.

I have light duty restrictions, but my employer won’t let me come back to work unless I’m 100% cleared for full duty, what should I do?

  • If your employer cannot provide you with light duty work and you have work restrictions because of an on-the-job injury, the workers’ compensation insurance company should be paying you wage loss benefits while you’re off work. You may also be entitled to rehabilitation assistance from a Qualified Rehabilitation Consultant. Don’t let your employer pressure you into being released to full duty before you’re ready. Returning to full-duty work before you’re physically ready to do so can adversely affect your legal rights, and more importantly, it can adversely affect your health.

My employer isn’t following my restrictions. They keep asking me to do work that’s outside of my restrictions, or they’re giving me a hard time about my inability to do full duty work. What should I do?

  • An employer cannot force you to perform work that exceeds your physical restrictions. However, we do see cases where an employer harasses an injured worker who can’t perform full duty activities, or where an employee is routinely asked to perform tasks that exceed his or her restrictions. Depending on the specific circumstances of the case, there are a number of things that can be done to address this situation. In some instances, the injured worker’s doctor may deem it appropriate to issue more specific work restrictions, or request a rehabilitation consultation with a Qualified Rehabilitation Consultant (QRC), and seek approval for an on-site job analysis. A Minnesota workers’ compensation lawyer can help you if your employer is trying to force you to perform work that exceeds your light duty restrictions. As a rule, an injured worker should not perform work that exceeds his or her restrictions.

I’m working light duty, but I’m still having trouble doing some of my job duties even though they’re within my doctor’s restrictions, what should I do?

  • You should discuss the situation with the doctor and explain the specific job duties that are causing your problems. If appropriate, your doctor may clarify or adjust your restrictions to help you avoid those job activities that are causing you difficulty. A Qualified Rehabilitation Consultant (QRC) can also help to document the difficulties you are experiencing and address these concerns with your doctor.

My restrictions are now permanent. My employer can’t provide me with a permanent light duty job. Am I going to lose my job?

  • Most employers are generally not required to offer permanent light duty positions, so unfortunately, if your employer cannot accommodate your permanent light duty limitations, you may be terminated on that basis. As Minnesota workers’ compensation lawyers, while we do encounter employers who make a good faith effort to place an injured worker in a different permanent light duty position, more often than not, the employee is terminated.
  • The good news is that if your employer cannot accommodate your permanent light duty restrictions, and you are terminated as a result, you are likely eligible for wage loss benefits while you look for a new, physically and economically suitable job. You are also likely eligible for the assistance of a Qualified Rehabilitation Consultant (QRC) who will provide vocational rehabilitation services, including job placement services or retraining plan development, to help place you in a new job. Your employer may provide you with a QRC but, as work comp attorneys, we can refer you to one that is working in your best interest.
  • If you have permanent restrictions, or if you’re likely to have permanent limitations once you’ve completed treatment for your injury, it is wise to speak with a Minnesota workers’ compensation lawyer. The more significant your injury, for the insurance company – the more costly it will be. If it is evident early on during the course of your case that you will have significant permanent restrictions as a result of your injury, the insurance company will be looking for ways to minimize their costs – including coming up with strategies to try to cut off your eligibility for benefits. If you’re suffering from a significant work-related injury, retaining a workers’ compensation lawyer early on in your case can help avoid costly problems down the road.

I don’t have written restrictions – I’ve just been watching what I do at work and avoiding activities that cause me difficulty. Do I need written restrictions?

  • Written documentation of your work restrictions is ALWAYS, repeat ALWAYS, better than simply just watching what you do at work. If there’s ever a dispute about your ability to do your job, while your testimony about limiting your work activities can be used to support your claim, written documentation of your restrictions is much, much stronger. We’ve seen this situation go awry for countless injured workers. Written work restrictions go a long way towards protecting your legal rights.

My doctor has given me work restrictions, but the insurance company’s independent medical examiner (IME) says I can return to work without restrictions. My employer is telling me I can return to work without restrictions. What should I do?

  • You should speak with a Minnesota workers’ compensation attorney. If your claim has not already been denied, it will be soon. That being said, what an injured worker should do in this situation is largely based on the circumstances, and a Minnesota workers’ compensation lawyer can instruct you on the best course of action. In some circumstances, the injured worker should continue to follow his or her doctor’s orders. Or, it may be appropriate for the injured worker to try to return to work and see how it goes. We may advise that the injured worker undergo a Functional Capacity Evaluation (FCE) to get an objective measure of that worker’s limitations.

I have work restrictions due to an on-the-job injury, and I’m being laid off. Am I eligible for workers’ compensation benefits?

  • Generally, yes. If you are laid off for reasons other than your work injury, but as a result of your work restrictions, you suffer a loss of earning capacity, you may be eligible for wage loss and/or rehabilitation benefits. Claims for wage loss benefits by workers who were laid off are routinely disputed by workers’ compensation insurance companies. Contact a Minnesota workers’ compensation attorney to assist you with the process.

I have a work injury and work restrictions, and my employer says I was terminated “for cause.” What should I do?

  • You should contact a Minnesota workers’ compensation lawyer immediately. While Minnesota law prevents employers from terminating an employee in retaliation for filing a workers’ compensation claim, unfortunately we see cases on a regular basis where an injured worker who is under light duty restrictions suddenly becomes targeted for write-ups, discipline, and firing, after they’re been hurt. Termination for misconduct can be a basis for denial of benefits in some workers’ compensation cases. That being said, “termination for cause,” is not the same thing as “termination for misconduct.” Even when an injured worker with work restrictions has been terminated for alleged misconduct, he or she may be entitled to wage loss and/or rehabilitation benefits.

If you have permanent restrictions, or if you’re suffering from a significant work-related injury, a Minnesota workers’ compensation lawyer can help you protect your rights and your future. Don’t wait until the insurance company is trying to stop your benefits! Contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation.