As a state worker, the rules of workers’ compensation are slightly different for you than they are for non-government employees. Because of this, your return-to-work scenarios may look slightly different than if you worked within a private organization or institution.
The North Carolina State Government Workers’ Compensation Employee Handbook details three possible return-to-work scenarios for when you have a compensable injury. Each is fair and ensures you continue to earn a living wage despite your point of improvement.
1. You return to your original or similar position
In the first scenario, the treating physician determines you have or have not reached the point of maximum medical improvement. Regardless of the determination, the physician feels you can comfortably resume work in your old position or in a similar one. In this situation, you return to work. Workers’ compensation benefits cease.
2. Your physician assigned temporary work restrictions
In this scenario, your physician determines that you have not yet reached the point of maximum medical improvement. However, he or she feels you are ready to take on light-duty, part-time or modified work. In other words, you can return to work but with temporary restrictions. If your employer has light-duty or modified work available, you must accept it. However, to make up for the temporary reduction in pay, you will continue to receive temporary total disability or temporary partial disability benefits during this time.
3. Your physician assigned permanent work restrictions
In the third and final scenario, your physician determines you reached MMI. Despite this, he or she assigns permanent work restrictions. Your employer must try to reasonably accommodate these restrictions or, if your pre-injury duties fall within the restrictions, you may return to your previous position.
If your employer cannot accommodate your new restrictions, it must either find you another suitable job within the same agency or institution or help you find employment with another state agency or institution. If a job is not available, you may continue to receive weekly total temporary disability benefits until you obtain suitable employment.
If suitable employment becomes available but you refuse it, your employer may petition to the NC Industrial Commission for the termination or suspension of your benefits. You can stop the petition by accepting a suitable job offer.