A worker who is still under authorized medical treatment for a work-related injury is returned to a light duty job by the same employer. However, the light duty job pays half of her regular pre-injury salary. Is this permissible?
Under the New Jersey Worker’s Compensation Act, an employee who is kept out of work by his or her employer’s authorized treating doctors is entitled to receive a wage replacement called Temporary Total Disability. This is 70% of the worker’s average weekly wage up to a yearly maximum amount as set by the State. When he or she returns to work these payments generally stop. However, when the worker returns to work on “light duty” while still under authorized treatment, the employer must either accommodate the light duty restrictions or continue paying the worker temporary disability while treatment continues.
A problem sometimes arises when the employer can accommodate the light duty restrictions but pays the worker less than the temporary disability rate. There is no statutory provision directly addressing this problem. However, what happens in most cases is the employer’s worker’s compensation insurance company pays the worker the difference between the reduced light duty wage and the temporary disability rate.
For example, a worker is earning $600 per week. She is hurt on the job and put out of work by the authorized treating doctor. She is then paid temporary disability in the amount of $420 per week (70% 0f $600). She is then allowed to return to work on light duty with certain restrictions, but remains under authorized medical treatment. Her employer accommodates her restrictions in a light duty position which pays $300 net per week. In this situation the employer’s insurance company should make up the difference by paying $120 per week in temporary disability benefits while she is still under treatment. If the company will not voluntarily do so, the worker should immediately contact an experienced worker’s compensation attorney to take action to obtain the difference between the lower wage and her temporary disability rate. Stark & Stark workers’ compensation attorneys are experienced in these matters and are happy to assist injured workers obtain the full benefits they are entitled to.