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Are You Supposed to Work While on Workers' Comp Benefits in California?

Working man at a factory holding his helmet

When you get injured on the job, you focus mainly on getting better and recovering from your injuries. However, another issue may also confuse you: are you supposed to work while on Workers' Comp benefits?   

It is easy to get confused about your rights and responsibilities. Besides, as every injured worker has a different situation, the answer to the question depends on a few variables.  

This blog article explores the particularities of working while receiving Workers’ Comp benefits. Find out what to expect and your options when you find yourself in this situation. 

1. Do You Have Work Restrictions from Your Workers’ Comp Doctor? 

After your injury examination, your Workers’ Comp doctor or PTP (primary treating physician) will probably give you some work restrictions. It depends on the accident you have and your needs.  

Then, your doctor might give you indications such as:  

  • You cannot lift anything over a certain weight   
  • You can only work a few hours a day   
  • You cannot spend time in certain positions  
  • Or even that you cannot work at all  

Physicians will give you the restrictions needed to ensure your recovery and avoid further injury. If this is your case, both you and your employer must respect them.    

If your doctor says you cannot work or limits your working hours, you will get compensation. These Temporary Disability (TD) payments make up for the lost wages caused by your injury. 

2. Can Your Employer Accommodate Your Work Restrictions? 

If your PTP gave you restrictions, your employer must honor them. However, those restrictions might make it impossible for you to do your regular job.   

Let’s say you can lift only fifteen pounds, and your job requires you to lift fifty pounds regularly. So, it means you cannot carry out those job duties.   

Sometimes, your employer will find another job for you to do while you recover. However, that is not always the case. 

If there aren't any available jobs you can do with your work restrictions, you cannot work until the doctor says otherwise

3. What Happens if You Have Multiple Jobs? 

All your jobs must honor the work restrictions your doctor gives you. If one job can accommodate your work restrictions and another cannot, you may continue working at the job that accommodates your limitations.   

You will receive Temporary Disability to make up for the difference between your earnings when you could work both jobs and your earnings working your remaining job. In case you cannot work at any of your jobs, you will receive TD depending on your combined wages.  

Temporary Disability pays 2/3 of your average weekly wages or 2/3 of the difference between your regular wages plus your post-injury wages. However, you don’t pay taxes on TD, so it is something less to worry about. 

4. What if You Find Another Job? 

It might happen that your work restrictions won't allow you to continue working at your previous job. In this case, you may try and find a job that can accommodate your injury. Go for it as long as you feel okay doing it.   

It pays to know that there are some potential consequences of doing this. You may be giving up certain benefits by accepting a new job, so discuss this matter with your Workers’ Comp lawyer.  

Remember, your health comes first. If you find something that can match or exceed your previous wages, you will stop receiving Temporary Disability. 

5. Does working hurt your Workers’ Compensation case? 

As long as you’re honoring the work restrictions provided by your doctor, working can’t do anything to hurt your claim. The most important thing is to listen to medical advice and to listen to your body.   

Some Workers’ Compensation doctors care more about the insurance companies than their patients. Hence, they can push you to return to work before you’re ready.   

You’re the only one who can feel the issues your injury is causing. If your doctor is making bad recommendations, contact an attorney right away. They should be able to help you find a new PTP who will have your interests at heart. 

Conclusion 

A work injury comes with plenty of matters to deal with. Work restrictions are among them. When a doctor gives you these limitations, it is because they want to prevent further lesions and enforce your recovery. This is why it is so important to respect them.  

There are some accommodations your employer can make to allow you to work, but that doesn’t happen all the time. Again, keep in mind your health comes first, so remember to only do what your current situation lets you do.   

Every case is different, and so are its outcomes. Thus, knowing your rights and responsibilities will give you a heads-up about what to expect. And, when in doubt, an experienced attorney can walk you along this road and help you relieve some stress. 

Need help with your Workers’ Comp case? Contact Pacific Workers’, The Lawyers for Injured Workers for a free, confidential case evaluation. Call us at 800-606-6999 or make an appointment here.       

*This article was updated on Feb. 27th, 2023, with new and more complete information.

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