Work Status (Light Duty versus Full Duty) in Louisiana Workers Compensation

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What is Light Duty Work Status in Louisiana Workers Compensation?

Typically, during the workers compensation process, an injured employee's treating physician will continuously seek to determine if the injured employee is able to return to work of some type.

And if the injured employee's treating physician does determine that the injured employee is able to return to work of some type, then the treating physician will sometimes place certain work restrictions on the type and intensity of work that the employee can perform.

So, even though the employee is still injured, the treating physician may clear the employee to participate in at least some type of work with restrictions. 

Generally speaking, this type of work that the employee performs during this period - and before returning in full to the complete aspects of the employee's job position - is called “light duty” work.

Also, once the injured employee's treating physician releases the employee to return to work with restrictions - or “light duty" - this is typically when the vocational rehabilitation process begins.

So basically, light duty means that the workers compensation insurance company or the employer will place the injured employee in a less-physically-demanding job position than the employee's usual job position, and/or that the workers compensation insurance company or the employer will modify the employee's present work to accommodate the treating physician's physical or mental work restrictions.

Also, light duty can also refer to new job positions that the employer will create for the injured employee that are not as physically or mentally demanding as the employee's prior position, so that the injured employee - who cannot perform previously routine work tasks due to physical or mental disability - can still return to work and perform new tasks.

Typically, light duty work consists of job restructuring or reassignment, especially when the work restrictions of the treating physician are physical - such as lifting, repetitive motions, or leg injuries.

Under job restructuring or reassignment, the employee's old job task will go to someone else, and the employee will receive a job position that is possible within the physical restrictions provided by the treating physician. So for example, if a warehouse worker broke his leg, then under light duty job restructuring this worker could be moved to a desk job, such as a dispatcher.

Examples of Light Duty Work in Louisiana Workers Compensation

Examples of light duty work in Louisiana workers compensation include:

    • Working a desk job
    • Answering phones
    • Mail handling
    • Data entry
    • Performing office tasks
    • Printing, photocopying and collating materials
    • Filing paperwork
    • Placing purchase orders
    • Shredding documents
    • Completing equipment inspection logs
    • Monitoring surveillance cameras
    • Supervising and reporting on job sites
    • Safety inspections and monitoring
    • Taking inventories
    • Telephone sales calls
    • Customer appreciation calls
    • Dispatching
    • Performing machinery/equipment maintenance
    • Packaging of product or merchandise
    • Greeting customers
    • Teaching or instructing less experienced employees

Light Duty Requirements for Employers and Employees in Louisiana Workers Compensation

Employers are not required to offer light duty work to an injured employee.

But generally the employer and the workers compensation insurance company will prefer to return an injured employee to light duty work with the employer because the light duty work will reduce costs for the workers compensation insurance company.

And if the employer does not offer light duty work to an injured employee, then typically the workers compensation insurance company will begin the vocational rehabilitation process after the injured employee's treating physician releases the employee to return to work with restrictions. 

Specifically, once the employee's treating physician releases the employee to return to work with restrictions (and the employer does not offer light duty work to an injured employee), the workers compensation insurance company will typically appoint a vocational rehabilitation counselor to handle the vocational rehabilitation process, which will likely include a Labor Market Survey to determine post-injury wage earning capacity.

However, if an employer does offer light duty work to an injured employee - and the employee's treating physician approves of this light duty work - then the employee must return to this light duty work or the employee will lose his or her workers compensation lost wage benefits.

But if the employee does accept this light duty work, that does not necessarily mean the end of the employee's lost wage benefits, because if the light duty position pays less than what the injured employee was earning before his or her accident, then the injured employee will receive the difference in the wages. 

Of course, an injured employee does not have to accept - and should not accept - a position that violates the work restrictions of the employee's treating physician.

What are the Technical Limits for Light Duty Work in Louisiana Workers Compensation? 

Sometimes, an injured employee's treating physician will get very precise work restrictions, including specific weight amounts and time limits.

But usually, an injured employee's treating physician will simply write "light duty " on a prescription. But what exactly does that mean?

Well, fortunately, the United States Department Of Labor provides the following exact descriptions for work duty status:

    • Light work. Exerting up to 20 pounds of force occasionally, or up to 10 pounds of force frequently, or a negligible amount of force constantly to move objects. A job should be rated Light work when it requires: (1). Walking or standing to a significant degree; or (2). Sitting most of the time but entails pushing or pulling of arm or leg controls; or (3). Working at a production rate pace entailing constant pushing or pulling of materials even though the weight of those materials is negligible. SSR 83-10 further defines the full range of Light work as requiring 6 or more hours of intermittent standing or walking in an 8-hour workday. Sitting may be required only intermittently and occasionally.
    • Medium work. Exerting 21 to 50 pounds of force occasionally, or 11 to 25 pounds of force frequently, or greater than negligible up to 10 pounds of force constantly to move objects.
    • Sedentary work. Exerting up to 10 pounds of force occasionally or a negligible amount of force frequently to lift, carry, push, pull, or otherwise move objects, including the human body. Sedentary work involves sitting most of the time, but may involve walking or standing for brief periods of time. Jobs are Sedentary if walking and standing are required only occasionally and all other Sedentary criteria are met. SSR 83-10 further defines Sedentary work as requiring about 6 hours of sitting and no more than 2 hours of standing or walking in an 8-hour workday.
    • Heavy work. Exerting 51 to 100 pounds of force occasionally, or 26 to 50 pounds of force frequently, or 11 to 20 pounds of force constantly to move objects.
    • Very heavy work. Exerting in excess of 100 pounds of force occasionally, or in excess of 50 pounds of force frequently, or in excess of 20 pounds of force constantly to move objects.

Also, the United States Department Of Labor provides the following exact definitions in support of these work duty status descriptions:

    • Physical demands. The physical requirements made on the worker by the specific job-worker situation. There are 26 physical demands: 1) Standing; 2) Walking; 3) Sitting; 4) Lifting; 5) Carrying; 6) Pushing; 7) Pulling; 8) Climbing; 9) Balancing; 10) Stooping; 11) Kneeling; 12) Squatting (Crouching); 13) Crawling; 14) Reaching; 15) Handling; 16) Fingering; 17) Feeling; 18) Talking; 19) Hearing; 20) Tasting/Smelling; 21) Near Acuity; 22) Far Acuity; 23) Depth Perception; 24) Accommodation; 25) Color Vision; and 26) Field of Vision.
    • Environmental conditions. The surroundings in which a job is performed. There are 14 environmental conditions: 1) Exposure to weather; 2) Extreme cold; 3) Extreme heat; 4) Wet/and or humid; 5) Noise intensity level; 6) Vibration; 7) Atmospheric conditions; 8) Proximity to moving mechanical parts; 9) Exposure to electrical shock; 10) Working in high exposed places; 11) Exposure to radiation; 12) Working with explosives; 13) Exposure to toxic or caustic chemicals; 14) Other environmental conditions.
    • Repetitive activity. Performing the same task(s) 30 or more repetitions per hour, or 240 or more repetitions in an 8 hour work day. Use of a keyboard 4 or more hours per day.
    • Non-repetitive activity. Performing the same task(s) less than 30 repetitions per hour, or less than 240 repetitions i an 8 hour work day. Use of keyboard less than 4 hours per day.
    • Frequent activity. The activity or condition exists more than 1/3 and up to 2/3 of the time, or more than 2 1⁄2 hours up to 5 1⁄4 hours in an 8 hour work day, or more than 13 and up to 62 repetitions per hour, or more than 100 and up to 500 repetitions in an 8 hour work day.
    • Occasional activity. The activity or condition exists up to 1/3 of the time, or up to 2 1⁄2 hours in an 8 hour work day, or up to 12 repetitions per hour, or up to 100 repetitions in an 8 hour work day.

Last, the United States Department Of Labor provides the following exact descriptions for work duty status skill levels:

    • Unskilled work (levels 1-2). Work requiring short demonstration only (level 1) or anything beyond short demonstration up to and including 1 month (level 2) for the worker to learn the techniques, acquire the information, and develop the facility needed for average performance in a specific job-worker situation.
    • Semi-skilled work (levels 3-4). Work requiring over 1 month up to an including 3 months (level 3) or over 3 months up to and including 6 months (level 4) for the worker to learn the techniques, acquire the information, and develop the facility needed for average performance in a specific job-worker situation.
    • Skilled work (levels 5-7). Work requiring over 6 months up to and including 1 year (level 5), over 1 year up to and including 2 years (level 6), or over 2 years up to and including 4 years (level 7) for the worker to learn the techniques, acquire the information, and develop the facility needed for average performance in a specific job-worker situation.
    • Highly skilled work (levels 8-9). Work requiring over 4 years up to and including 10 years (level 8) or over 10 years (level 9) for the worker to learn the techniques, acquire the information, and develop the facility needed for average performance in a specific job-worker situation.

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