Employers in Illinois may now offer transitional, light-duty work at other businesses or non-profits to petitioners if their company is unable to accommodate a petitioner’s light duty work requirements.
The Commission recently reversed the arbitrator’s ruling in Stegan v. RelaDyne, LLC, holding that a petitioner was not entitled to temporary total disability (TTD) benefits while enrolled in a transitional work program offered by the employer that the petitioner refuses.
Stegan (the petitioner) sustained a compensable injury to his shoulder, which precluded him from working his normal and usual tasks as a forklift operator. However, the authorized treating physician allowed him to return to work in a light-duty capacity.
Unable to accommodate the petitioner’s work restrictions, RelaDyne (the employer) placed the petitioner in its Transitional Work Program, specifically with Habitat for Humanity, where his work activities included sorting of donations and customer service – within his restrictions. The petitioner refused to participate in the program and did not report to Habitat for Humanity on the day he was scheduled to work because he testified that RelaDyne—not Habitat for Humanity—was his employer.
Because the petitioner was to be paid by RelaDyne, was subject to their human resources and attendance policies, and remained their employee, the Commission determined his refusal to report for the assigned, transitional work disqualified him from entitlement to TTD benefits.
Although he did not work, the petitioner in this case could not demonstrate he was unable to work, given that the transitional light-duty position offered by RelaDyne fell within his restrictions. The Commission held the petitioner was not entitled to TTD benefits during the period of time RelaDyne provided light-duty, transitional work and the petitioner refused to show up for the same.
This decision provides employer with another avenue to help get petitioners back to work more quickly than before.
Not only does this decision help get employees back to work sooner, it also assists employers in avoiding paying TTD and/or TPD when an employee refuses alternative light-duty work. Whereas previously, a petitioner could potentially refuse light-duty positions offered at another business entity or non-profit organization while continuing to receive TTD benefits.
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