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Can You Work While on Workers’ Comp?

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A drawing of the lead workers' compensation lawyer for Atticus.
Victoria Muñoz
Lead Attorney
June 27, 2023  ·  4 min read
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Whether or not you can work on workers’ comp depends on your situation. Your most likely option is light-duty or part-time work, but doing too much could still mean losing benefits. We’ll give you an overview of the options plus resources that can help if you aren’t sure whether you can keep working.

Can you work while on workers’ comp?

You can do part-time, light-duty, or modified-duty work if your doctor allows it, but you generally can’t work full-time or you’ll lose workers’ comp benefits.

In most cases where you can work while getting workers’ comp, you’ll work reduced hours or do light-duty work with tasks tailored to your current ability. This will allow you to receive medical benefits and lost-wage payments. Even if your employer won’t offer light-duty work, continuing to do your regular job could lead the insurance company to end your benefits.

If you’re not sure whether the work you’re doing is too much, you’ll need to check your state’s laws — start with your state workers’ comp board. You can also talk with a workers’ comp lawyer since they’ll know your local laws and exactly what qualifies as too much work.

What is light-duty work?

For workers’ comp, light-duty work is a job that involves tasks adapted to your health condition. It might be the same position you had before your injury except with different responsibilities, or it could be a new position that you take while recovering.

Examples of light-duty work include cleaning equipment, janitorial tasks, filing paperwork, and taking inventory.

Your employer will design your position according to your doctor’s orders. For example, let’s say your doctor specified that you can’t lift more than 10 pounds or stand for more than 30 minutes. In this case, your employer might be able to offer a desk job where you do secretarial tasks.

States like New York and California encourage employers to offer light-duty and transitional roles that help workers stay in their jobs. But states have different levels of investment in these initiatives, so your likelihood of getting light-duty work varies.

How to get light-duty work

If you’re interested in working a light-duty position, talk with your treating physician about a report or evaluation that lays out your work limitations. You may also need to work with your state’s workers’ comp bureau or your employer’s insurance company to create a work plan that won’t result in you losing medical or payment benefits.

Getting light-duty work isn’t always possible, though. Depending on your job and the details of injury or illness, your employer may not have modified-duty work to offer you. In that case, you may be able to work another job, but you still need to follow your doctor’s orders. You also need to report that income to the insurance company because it will affect the value of your workers’ comp payments.

Can you refuse light-duty on workers’ comp?

If your employer offers work that fits with your treating physician’s specifications and you refuse to do it, you’ll lose your workers’ comp benefits. But you don’t have to accept any work that conflicts with your doctor’s orders or treatment plan.

Your state’s workers’ comp bureau will want to see you make a good-faith effort to work with your employer if you want to keep getting payments and medical benefits.

Further reading: 7 Situations When You Should Hire a Workers’ Comp Lawyer

Salary continuation programs and working on workers’ comp

Your state may have an exception for working while getting workers’ comp so that your employer can keep you at your old position for the same wages as before your injury. In particular, Ohio offers a workers’ comp program called salary continuation.

You’ll have to pay taxes on your earnings just like you did before the injury, but you’ll get full pay. Otherwise, workers’ comp benefits aren’t taxable but they only pay up to two-thirds of your normal wages.

If your employer offers to keep you on their payroll and you aren’t sure if you should get lost-wage benefits instead, consult with a workers’ comp lawyer. They’ll help you choose the most beneficial route.

Atticus can connect you with an experienced lawyer. Start with free workers’ compensation quiz and our team will reach out to help you understand your options.

Can you work another job while on workers’ comp?

Just like with the job where you got injured or sick, you need to get clearance from your doctor to do any extra jobs on workers’ comp. You also need to report all of your jobs and all of your income to the insurance company.

Doing more work than your doctor recommends and trying to hide extra work could cause you to lose your benefits or get fined. States will cancel benefits for any workers they suspect of lying to get more money or benefits.

So if you do work more than one job, make sure to report all of your positions and your income when you file for workers’ comp. The earnings from your other jobs also factor into your workers’ comp payments regardless of which job you were doing when your injury or illness happened.

Talk to a lawyer if you have more than one job and get workers’ comp. They’ll explain how your situation will affect your benefits and advise you on what to do to keep getting them.

How can I plan my finances if I can’t work while on workers’ comp?

Not all employers can offer your light-duty work and you might not be able to work at all because of your injury. If you need help paying the bills while on workers’ comp, here are some things to consider:

  • Start workers’ comp payments as soon as possible. Every state requires you to miss a certain amount of work before getting benefits to cover your lost wages. Our guide to worker’ comp waiting periods will help you figure out how long you need to wait before getting paid.

  • Get the full payments you deserve. States calculate workers’ comp payments based on the severity of your injury and your average earnings before the injury. Make sure you’re getting as much as you deserve — we have all of the formulas in our guide to how much workers’ comp pays. If you think you should be getting more, a worker’s comp lawyer can help you fight for more pay.

  • Know how long you can be on workers’ comp. If you have a condition that could put you out of work for months, get to know your state’s maximum length for benefits.

  • Does my state offer any occupational services? Some states, such as Massachusetts, provide vocational services as part of their workers’ comp benefits. This benefit helps you find another job if you can’t keep your old job anymore.

  • Consider other disability benefits. If your injury or illness results in long-term complications that keep you out of work for more than a year, you may qualify for federal disability benefits.

We’ve also gathered a list of financial, housing, legal, and other resources for people with disabilities and medical conditions that keep them out of work.

Where to get help with workers’ comp

Working while on workers’ comp is a complex subject because so much of it depends on your condition, your job, and your state laws. If you want to continue working while on workers’ comp, a lawyer in your area can assess your options. They can also help you in cases when your employer offers work that you don’t think you can do.

It’s easy to connect with an experienced lawyer near you by taking our two-minute workers’ comp quiz. After you answer some questions about yourself, we’ll get you in touch to learn more about your situation and connect you with a lawyer who’s a fit for your case. Getting matched is free, you won’t pay the lawyer anything up front, and you don’t have to work with our lawyers if you don’t want to.

Maximize your workers' comp benefits.

Frequently asked questions about working on workers’ comp

Will I lose workers’ comp benefits if I keep working?

You can continue working on workers’ comp but you need to follow your doctor’s instructions, which usually means doing light-duty or modified duty work.

Can you work a second job while on workers’ comp?

Yes, you can work a second job while you’re getting workers’ comp benefits, but you should report those hours and income to the insurance company. That income could also reduce your workers’ comp payments.

How many hours can you work on workers' comp?

There’s no specific number of hours you can work while receiving workers’ comp benefits as long as you follow your treating physician’s instructions. If you don’t follow your doctor’s orders, you could lose benefits.

How many hours can you work on light-duty?

There’s no strict number of hours you can work while you’re on light-duty or modified duty for workers’ comp, as long as you follow your doctor’s orders. If your doctor gives you a limit on how much you can do, stay within that limit or you could lose benefits.

Can you work overtime while on light-duty?

Yes, you can work overtime on light-duty or modified duty work, but don’t do more than your treating physician says you can do or you risk losing benefits.

Do you get medical benefits on light-duty work?

Yes, you will still receive medical coverage and medical workers’ comp benefits while doing light-duty and modified-duty work.

Do I lose workers’ comp if I quit my job?

You won’t lose workers’ comp benefits just because you quit your job, but you could lose them if you refuse light-duty work or don’t follow your treating physician’s orders. Income from another job could also reduce your workers’ comp payments. Otherwise, you can still get benefits as long as you had an eligible work injury, you reported it in time, and you filed your claim in time.

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A drawing of the lead workers' compensation lawyer for Atticus.

Victoria Muñoz

Lead Attorney

Victoria Muñoz is an attorney on Atticus’s Workers' Compensation team. She’s a licensed attorney, a graduate of Stanford Law School, and has counseled hundreds of people seeking workers' compensation. In her free time, she enjoys hiking and spending time with her pup.
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