No, your employer cannot make you return to work in Florida. Only your treating physician has the authority to release you back to work. However, if your doctor has decided that you are capable of returning to work in some capacity, you are legally required to make an honest effort to return to work. If you do not, you forfeit your eligibility for lost wage benefits.
There are some situations where restrictions are placed on the type of work you can return to, and your employer must abide by these restrictions. If they do not, you should immediately contact the workers’ compensation insurance adjuster and explain the situation.
Understanding Workers’ Compensation Laws
Workers’ compensation laws in Florida are designed to transition the employee back into the workplace as quickly as reasonably possible.
According to the Florida Division of Worker’s Compensation, if limited or light-duty tasks are available at your place of employment, and if it is determined by your treating physician that you are capable of performing these limited or light-duty tasks (even if the pay for these tasks is less than your previous position and even if you are not totally recovered), workers’ compensation payments can be stopped by your employer.
In a situation where there is no availability of light or limited duty, your employer must make the workers’ compensation insurance carrier aware of this fact. If they send you home and do not alert the insurance carrier, your worker’s compensation payments could be stopped or interrupted.
If returning to your current place of employment is not possible because of your limitations, but it is concluded that you can work in a more sedentary position, you may be required to change jobs. If you can return to a job in any capacity, your workers’ compensation insurance could deny or stop benefits.
Other circumstances that could stop workers’ compensation benefits are:
- The employee refuses to return to the work they are capable of performing. This would stop benefits during the period of refusal.
- If the employee chooses to find new employment, the employee must give the former employer an affidavit in writing. The affidavit should include the new wage amount, the name of the new company, and the name of the new employer. If the employee fails to send the affidavit to the former employer, benefits will be discontinued until it is received properly.
Temporary Partial Disability Benefits
When your treating physician releases you from a no-work status, but places restrictions on the work you can perform, you may be eligible for Temporary Partial Disability Benefits until FL § 440.15.
Some important information to know about these benefits includes:
- You must be unable to earn at least 80 percent of the income earned at the time of the injury.
- The maximum time to collect Temporary Partial Disability Benefits is 104 weeks.
- If you reach Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI) before 104 weeks, the benefits will stop at that time.
MMI is when your doctor determines that your injuries are not likely to heal or improve more than their current state.
Requests for Medical Evaluation
If your employer or the insurance carrier feels that you may be able to return to work, they can request an assessment by the rehabilitation advisor.
These assessments are limited to one time per year. In addition, they must notify you and any attorney who you have retained at least seven days prior to the evaluation.
If the testimony of the medical professional conducting the assessment concludes that you can return to work, even light or limited duty, your employer has the right to stop your workers’ compensation benefits.
You Have the Right to Change Your Doctor
If you feel that your current physician has made a mistake in sending you back to work, you could start by requesting that your current doctor gather a second opinion of your condition.
If they are unwilling to fulfill your request, you do have the right to change physicians once during your workers’ compensation claim. The new doctor will be provided by the insurance carrier and will have the same specialty as the former doctor.
You may also request your own evaluator, but the insurance carrier must approve the medical professional conducting the evaluation. In addition, the expense of the evaluator may be your responsibility.
Call Chalik & Chalik Injury Lawyers for Workers’ Compensation Help
A workers’ compensation attorney at Chalik & Chalik Injury Lawyers knows that your employer cannot make you return to work in Florida and can help you understand the benefits you should be receiving. If you have suffered an injury while performing your duties at the workplace, you may also be able to pursue damages outside of workers’ compensation. Contact our team today at (855) 529-0269 for a free consultation to evaluate your claim.