Recently many of our clients have been pressured by their employer, or “employer’s” doctor to return to work after sustaining a work related injury. Employees injured at work may be entitled to Temporary Disability benefits. The term “temporary disability” (TD) refers to the healing period directly following an industrial injury during which an employee is off work temporarily and is unable to perform the job while being treated for the immediate effects of the injury.
The problem arises when the employer believes that the injured worker can perform a modified or light duty job while recovering from the injury. The ultimate decision regarding the TD status lies with the treating doctor. Many employers feel that if the employee can sit at home and do light chores, they can sit at a desk and answer a phone. Under certain circumstances, the employer does not appreciate that the employee may be taking medication, need to lie down or take many breaks through out the day, thus hindering the ability to work even a light duty assignment.
As a result of the desire to return injured workers back to work as soon as possible, many employers are initiating Sub Rosa investigation to determine if the employee is performing any type of physical activity that would be inconsistent with the TD status.
It is critical that the injured worker confer with the treating doctor regarding any physical activity being performed. For example, a police officer was shooting baskets at the gym while recovering from a neck surgery. His employer followed him and filmed him participating in this activity. The employee was subsequently fired for Workers’ Compensation fraud. During the investigation the treating doctor indicated that had he known that the employee could engage in this physical activity, he would have stopped the TD status and returned him to modified work.
It is important to understand the limitations and restrictions placed on you by your treating physician and act in accordance with the prescribed activities.
Be aware of what you are doing in public and what you are writing on any public forum. Recently, a client, who was unable to work due to a back injury, responded on Facebook to a co-worker’s invitation for a road trip to Las Vegas. If the employer obtains this information, the injured worker could face an investigation for benefits abuse.
It is important to take the appropriate time and steps to heal from your injuries as prescribed by your doctor to insure the best possible recovery, while protecting yourself from any unnecessary investigation.
Be safe out there…