Workers who come to us for help with on-the-job injuries have typically performed heavy work responsibilities for the majority of their working life. As such, we understand that when you’ve been injured on the job, it’s not just inconvenient — it’s a life-changing event. Transitioning from heavy-duty job duties to sedentary work can mean a pay cut and difficulty switching to work of an entirely different nature.
When you are placed under permanent work restrictions, it may feel like your career is over. But with help from Shook & Stone, you’ll understand your options, your rights under the law, and eventually find your way back to work.
What Are Permanent Work Restrictions?
When you’re ready to come back to work after an injury or a surgery, your next step is to obtain a Physician Progress Report (PPR) from your doctor. For example, if you were to break or fracture your back while lifting something and subsequently needed a spinal fusion operation, your surgeon would ask your physical therapist to perform a functional capacity evaluation (FCE).
The PT will summarize the results of this evaluation in a report and send it to your surgeon, who will review it with you while filling out a physical capacities questionnaire (PCQ) defining what your new work restrictions should be, i.e. you can’t lift over 20 pounds, no repetitive bending, etc. These work restrictions are put in place to prevent you from reinjuring yourself or making your condition worse. They detail how much you can lift, your range of motion, and overall physical ability so that you do not perform work that is too strenuous on your body.
When you receive this report, it is your responsibility to hand it over to your employer. From here, the company can either modify your job duties based on your new permanent work restrictions or let you go if they cannot accommodate your disability. In some cases, even if you can’t perform all of your job duties, your employer may still agree to pay you 85% of your prior wages in a different position. If returning to work as normal isn’t an option, your best option is to turn to wage loss or vocational retraining benefits.
Permanent Work Restrictions Under Nevada Law
Fortunately, “permanent work restrictions” sound more permanent than they actually are. The state of Nevada acknowledges that people can heal and that your condition is subject to change. It could get worse, or it could get better — and if it does, you may end up with fewer work restrictions, or even none at all. Your physician would simply need to reassess your injury to qualify you for a change in work restrictions. As you recover from on-the-job injuries, you can meet with your doctor regularly for progress reports to get a better idea of when you can resume your normal work responsibilities.
Be careful, however, not to take on more work beyond your permanent work restrictions without an updated report from your doctor that clears you to do so. This could get you in trouble with your employer and give them reason to question your truthfulness about your physical abilities. Doctor-given restrictions must also be renewed when switching jobs, as they do not transfer over to new employers and job descriptions.
It is your responsibility to find out if your employer can offer you temporary light work based on your newly acquired disability. If this isn’t possible during your recovery period, Nevada law says that you are then eligible for temporary total disability benefits (TTD) under Nevada workers’ compensation.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Employers Required to Modify Your Previous Job Duties?
Workers’ compensation laws in Nevada do NOT require your employer to adjust your position to accommodate permanent work restrictions. Technically, they don’t even have to take you back if you cannot perform your regular job duties. It is within their rights to tell your adjuster that there is no work available that suits your permanent work restrictions and that they cannot offer light-duty work.
At this point, your adjuster may recommend that you speak with a vocational rehabilitation counselor to discuss a retraining program or a vocational rehabilitation payoff. If you aren’t sure which of these options is the right one to pursue or you’re adamant about remaining with your current employer, speak with one of our attorneys for reliable advice.
What Are My Options After My Employer Denies Light Work?
After losing a job due to permanent work restrictions, you can apply for wage loss benefits, medical benefits, and/or vocational rehabilitation benefits, which help you recuperate a portion of your lost wages.
- Wage loss benefits: These benefits, if you qualify, entitle you to 80% of your post-tax weekly earnings. This amount is fixed at your pay rate before your injury and is subject to decrease if insurance companies notice that jobs within your permanent work restrictions have become available to you.
- Medical benefits: Some people with permanent work restrictions will need lifelong medical care, specifically pain management and rehabilitative physical therapy. In such cases, the insurance company will pay for all needed medical care regardless of a person’s work status and without the requirement of a copay or a deductible.
- Vocational rehabilitation benefits: During the vocational rehabilitation process, you may qualify for two years of paid tuition reimbursement or retraining maximum, during which your wage loss benefits will stay in effect. But be aware that insurance companies are motivated to help disabled employees return to work because it could mean the end of wage loss benefit payments, so look out for vocational counselors who are hired to cut off these benefits prematurely by pushing you into demeaning work. Our qualified workers’ compensation attorneys can point you to a vocational counselor who can best help you with your job search.
What Can I Do if My Employer is Discriminating Against Me?
If you feel that you were denied work due to discrimination reasons, you are protected by federal anti-discrimination laws under the Americans with Disabilities Act (Amendments Act of 2008), which states that, “An impairment that substantially limits one major life activity need not limit other major life activities in order to be considered a disability.” If this applies to you, one of our attorneys can help you pursue justice if you qualify for ADAAA help under the following qualifications:
- You have a disability by the legal definition
- You can still perform the essential functions of your position and only require slight modifications
- Your employer refuses to discuss your disability and potential job accommodations with you
- The company employs more than 15 people in the state of Nevada
Shook & Stone Can Help in the Event of Discrimination
If you have permanent work restrictions for a disability and believe your employer is discriminating against you by refusing you work that you can reasonably perform with slight modifications, get in touch with Shook & Stone. We get the best results for workers’ compensation claims and can help you through this difficult time. Contact us today for a case evaluation.