I answer questions on another website and this question was recently posed and the economy being what it is, I thought a broader audience might appreciate the advice.

Question: If a person has a work comp injury with restrictions can they be laid off of work?

Answer: The answer is sometimes, yes and sometimes no. The answer all depends on how the doctor released the employee, with or without restrictions.

This question demonstrates why a release to return to work should be in writing and clearly set forth any restrictions on activity levels. Written releases of weight, time, push, pull, climbing, squatting, heights limits, to name a few are so very important and without the restrictions no one, especially the employer know how to treat the employee’s performance. If the employer is left with just listening to the employee about what they can and can not do, then doubts develop about the employee’s motivation and the employee is playing right into the prejudice that already exists in the workers’ compensation system.

A person who has been injured and off work (with a doctor’s excuse) due to a work related injury is entitled to receive workers’ compensation benefits until one of three things happen. First, this period is known as the healing period and it runs up to the time when the employee returns to work, is released to return to work or reaches maximum medical improvement, which first occurs. Once released the employer must accept the employee. (I refer to these periods as RTW, RRTW or MMI.) Once released the employee must show up for work. Healing periods begin with the first date of disability and end with the release to return to work.

Restricted releases to return to work mean the employee is released for a trial of work. A trial of work is one in which the doctor wishes to see if the employee can be progressively reintroduced to their old job. If the employer accommodates those restrictions then all is well, but if not then the employee is back on healing period until the time when they either return to work or reach maximum medical improvement.

When during the healing period the employer has had to lay workers off due to a slow economy like the rest of the work force the employee must weather the slow down using unemployment benefits, not workers’ compensation benefits. But if the doctor’s excuse was for light duty (a release with restrictions) and employer is not able to accommodate those restrictions then the employee would be back on w.c. benefits as not yet healed. It’s simply a matter of the restrictions being in writing, the type of release being light duty and the employer not being able to accommodate the restricted work.

So if you have the right release and the employer doesn’t accommodate it then you should still receive workers’ compensation benefits under Iowa law.

If after being released to return to work you have a dispute with your employer about taking you back don’t get mad, hire a lawyer to assist you. Attitudes can be a good thing and bad all at the same time. I know you’re scared about being able to pay the bills and the kids need to eat, but keep your head about you and think. The Iowa Industrial Commission, otherwise known as Iowa Workforce Development (God I hate that name, what’s wrong with saying Industrial Commission?) is here to resolve disputes.  There are times that even workers’ who act heroically are denied benefits.

August 26, 2008, Little Rock, Arkansas – McDonald’s Employee rescues customer who is being attacked by another customer, is shot and his employer argues he was not advancing the interests of the employer. The employee incurred over $300,000 in medical expenses.



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