Ordered back to work on light duty, but still not medically ready?
My daughter, who is a firefighter healing from a second shoulder surgery for a fall through a burning ceiling, has had pressure put on her (and her doctor) for her to return to work before the usual healing time of 12 weeks. There is also a secondary injury that has not been addressed.
The surgeon first advised "no return to work" at a six weeks checkup, and did state this in his paperwork and before a workers comp nurse was assigned to her case. He then was pressured by the workers comp adjuster that she could at least return to work "answering phones."
However, she is still in severe pain (reported prior to the order to return to light duty), on medication, and has had a temperature and body aches from an infection she has also reported for about the past 3 weeks.
The doctor changed the order to light duty and has refused to see her again before she will be required to return to work. He has not specified weight restrictions or any other limitations for the employer. She was so sick the adjustor finally approved that she go to a walk-in clinic and they found a severe infection.
Meanwhile, she is still required to return to work, and they have ordered that she forgo taking her pain medication as well. She can barely sit up now, much less work full work week - even answering phones. Her physical therapist and the nurse practitioner have recommended she not return to work, but this is being ignored, and the nurse was removed from her case.
What are her rights in this situation? If she does suffer further injuries (as she did in the first surgery) can she sue the workers comp provider? What about her employer, who is also pushing for this? Thank you for any information you can provide.
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ANSWER for "Ordered back to work on light duty, but still not medically ready?":
Rhonda (Auburndale, Florida):
Your daughter has a right not to return to work until she believes she is able to perform her duties, and do so without pain. However, if she chooses to return to work on her own schedule she may be in conflict with her employer. That conflict might result in the termination of her employment.
Your daughter should contact the workers' compensation representative and request she be seen and medically evaluated by another approved doctor. In addition, your daughter has a right to seek the medical opinion of a private doctor.
If the new doctors agree with the present doctor(s), then your daughter will be in a precarious position. She make not return to work, but face termination of her employment. The fire department wants to be sure your daughter isn't on medications which might adversely affect her ability to work safely.
If your daughter does return to work and is injured, or her present injuries are exacerbated, she likely does not have a right to sue her employer or the workers' compensation insurance company.
The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.
Best of luck,
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