If you haven’t reached maximum medical improvement your employer can force you to do ANYTHING and cut off your weekly checks.
A few years ago Chip Permar handled a case where the employer called an injured person back to work and had him sitting in an unheated, unlit trailer on a construction site doing absolutely nothing in the middle of winter. The scenario was so over-the-top that it became almost an urban legend in terms of how illegal it was. Not any more.
The court of appeals recently permitted an employer to return an injured employee to a make-work position if it was therapeutic; that is, if performing the light-duty job would help the injured worker get better then it was acceptable. The new law takes this idea and eliminates any need for a positive benefit to the injured person. The law explicitly states that prior to maximum medical improvement the injured worker may be forced to return to “noncompetitive employment.” What does that mean? It means sitting in an unheated, unlit trailer on a construction site doing absolutely nothing in the middle of winter.
You might ask yourself; well I’m going to get paid aren’t I? The answer to that is “yes.” You will get paid. But the danger – and one that we have seen occur literally hundreds of times – is that as soon as you go back to work the employer finds an excuse to fire you. They can claim you were late to work, had a poor attitude, or were incompetent, and they will fire you. Will the adjuster turn your checks back on? Don’t count on it.
If your employer is trying to bring you back to work before you have reached maximum medical improvement it is almost imperative that you have an attorney representing you. That offers basically the only layer of protection between you and almost certain disaster. In our experience employers are much less likely to play games when you already have an attorney. They normally rely on your ignorance of the law to help them implement their plans. Thus having a lawyer on your case will make them pause. It isn’t a guarantee but it certainly increases your odds of survival.