If a claimant refuses a light duty job offer, we do not have to pay TPD, unless the refusal was “justifiable.”
440.15 (6) EMPLOYEE REFUSES EMPLOYMENT.—If an injured employee refuses employment suitable to the capacity thereof, offered to or procured therefor, such employee shall not be entitled to any compensation at any time during the continuance of such refusal unless at any time in the opinion of the judge of compensation claims such refusal is justifiable. Time periods for the payment of benefits in accordance with this section shall be counted in determining the limitation of benefits as provided for in paragraphs (2)(a), (3)(c), and 1(4)(b).
So, what is justifiable? If the refusal was reasonable. Some common reasons JCC’s have found a refusal of light duty to be reasonable:
- Distance- the light duty job offer is much further than where the claimant usually worked. Commute times in traffic do matter. Its case by case…..
- Different shift- Sometimes it is a childcare or transportation issue. Look at the job application and see if they answered they could only do certain shifts. Its case by case….
- Driving restrictions to get to work- This one is a mixed bag from the JCC’s. I have seen JCC’s look at the bus line routes to see if that is reasonable in distance to walk to get to and from the bus stop as well as time/bus changes. In rural areas this is tougher. If the claimant alleges they can’t drive because of the medications being prescribed, get the doctor to address it asap. They usually will state they can take the meds around driving.
- Light duty job is (allegedly) above the restrictions- This often comes down to a credibility argument, between what the employer says and the claimant, but you can always try and get the doctor to sign off on the light duty job description.
And remember, if you would still owe TPD because even after the light duty job the claimant falls below 80%, you still owe the TPD you would have owed regardless of whether they show up for light duty per the Alie v. Crum case.
As always, let me know if you have any questions.
Morgan Indek | Partner