A Nevada employer cannot lawfully fire a worker who is recovering from an injury or illness suffered while on the job. But many employers have policies that require employees to accept light duty work as a condition of keeping their jobs while they are recovering. Because some workers’ compensation benefits can be tied to continuing employment, workers often feel forced to accept light duty. Workers recovering from injury need to understand how light duty works.
Employers adopt light duty policies to accommodate worker disabilities
Employers adopt light duty policies to avoid the legal risk of terminating an employee after the employee is injured or after a workers’ compensation claim is filed. If the employee’s injuries resulted in a temporary or permanent disability, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects them from being fired solely on the basis of the disability. Instead, employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations for the disability. Nevada law also prohibits employers from firing employees solely because they have filed a workers’ compensation claim. Offering light duty is one way to comply with these rules.
Nevada’s light duty rules
Nevada distinguishes between two types of light duty work: temporary and permanent. Temporary light duty is offered to employees who are still recovering from their work-related injuries or illnesses and cannot resume their normal job while undergoing treatment. An employer’s policies determine the practical scope of light duty, but it must take into account the limitations placed on the employee by the treating physician. In many cases, a temporary light duty job gets created to fit the employee’s specific needs. An offer of light duty work must be in writing and describe the job in detail, including its wage, hours, and physical requirements. If the light duty work doesn’t match the written offer, an employee can demand changes. NAC 616C.583.
Permanent light duty is another story. When a worker’s physician concludes that the worker will have permanent limitations as a result of workplace injuries, an employer is not required to modify the employee’s old job or offer a permanent position that accommodates for the worker’s new disabilities. Workers who lose their job as a result of permanent work restrictions, and whose employer elect not to provide light duty accommodations, are eligible for vocational retraining benefits.
Light duty and workers’ compensation benefits
All employers in Nevada are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. Workers’ compensation benefits include payment of medical expenses, vocational rehabilitation, and lost wages. A worker can continue to receive these benefits after being terminated, but Nevada allows insurers to deny coverage to workers who are fired for misconduct. NRS 616C.323.
If an employer has a policy requiring an injured worker to accept an offer of temporary light duty work during recovery, the employee normally must accept the position or risk being fired. Quite often, temporary light duty work is a big step down from a worker’s ordinary job, involving tasks that are menial or dull. But refusing to do light duty work can constitute “misconduct” and lead to lost workers’ compensation coverage.
We help Las Vegas workers protect their rights
After being injured on the job it’s always a good idea to talk to an attorney who understands workers’ compensation. For over 45 years GGRM has worked hard to ensure that clients who have been injured on the job are not losing out on their legally protected benefits. For a free attorney consultation, call us today at 702-388-4476, or send us a request through our contact page.