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In California, Are You Supposed to Work When On Workers’ Comp?

Pacific Workers' Compensation Law Center

When on workers comp in California, should you work?

Do you have to work while you’re receiving Workers’ Compensation benefits? The answer to this question is different for every injured worker, and it depends on a few variables.

Do you have work restrictions from your Workers’ Compensation doctor?

If your Workers’ Compensation doctor, also known as a PTP (primary treating physician) gives you work restrictions, it’s important that both you and your employer respect them. Your doctor might tell you that you can’t lift anything over a certain weight, that you can only work a few hours a day, or that you can’t spend time in certain positions. Your PTP might even tell you that you’re not able to work at all. These restrictions are provided to make sure you recover and avoid further injury. If your doctor says you cannot work, or that you can work only limited hours, you will be compensated with TD (temporary disability) payments to make up for the lost wages.

Can your employer accommodate your work restrictions?

If you are given work restrictions by your PTP, your employer must honor the restrictions. However, those restrictions might make it impossible for you to do your regular job. If you are only allowed to lift fifteen pounds, and your job requires you to lift fifty pounds on a regular basis, it means you cannot carry out those job duties. Sometimes, your employer will be able to find another job for you to do while you recover. However, that isn’t always the case. If there is no available job that you can do with your work restrictions, that means that you cannot work until your doctor removes or modifies those restrictions.

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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 restrictions. You will receive TD to make up for the difference between your earnings when you could work both jobs and your earnings working your remaining job. If you cannot work at any of your jobs, you will receive TD based on your combined wages. TD pays out at 2/3 your average weekly wages or 2/3 of the difference between your regular wages and your post-injury wages. However, you don’t pay taxes on TD.

What if you find another job?

If your work restrictions make it impossible for you to continue working at your previous job, you may try and find a job that can accommodate your injury – as long as you feel okay doing it. Discuss the potential consequences of finding a new job with a Workers’ Compensation attorney, as you may be giving up certain benefits by accepting a job with a new employer. Remember, your health comes first. If you find something that can match or exceed your previous wages, you will stop receiving TD.

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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 also to listen to your body. Some Workers’ Compensation doctors care more about the insurance companies than about their patients and will push you to go back 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 a Workers’ Compensation attorney right away. Your Workers’ Compensation lawyer should be able to help you find a new PTP who will have your interests at heart.

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