What Are Permanent Work Restrictions?

What Are Permanent Work Restrictions?

If you get hurt in an accident, either on or off duty, you might find yourself unable to perform your usual work duties.

Your healthcare provider may issue instructions that limit your work duties on “doctor’s orders,” which are referred to as permanent work restrictions.

The purpose of these restrictions, of course, is to protect you from further injury. Permanent work restrictions generate significant legal issues.

Texas Is an “At-Will” Employment State

Texas Is an “At-Will” Employment State

Texas is an “at-will” employment state. This means that absent an employment contract, your employer can generally fire you at any time for any reason. Your employer can even fire you for a disability you suffered due to an accident that wasn’t even your fault. 

The purpose of at-will employment is to give people maximum freedom to start and operate businesses as they see fit. Fortunately, this freedom is not unlimited; you have certain rights.

What Are Permanent Work Restrictions?

Permanent work restrictions might include, for example:

  • Physical limitations (limitations on how long you can stand up or sit down, bending, repetitive motions, and more),
  • Environmental limitations (exposure to noise or extreme temperatures, for example), or
  • Modified work schedules (reduced hours, more frequent and longer breaks)

A “permanent” work restriction might not be literally permanent. If your condition improves, your doctor might remove your restrictions.

Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI) and Permanent Work Restrictions

A doctor will generally issue work restrictions only after you have reached MMI. MMI is the point in your recovery where your doctor does not expect your medical condition to improve any further. In a best-case scenario, that means a full recovery. In other cases, however, it means permanent disability. 

It is this second case that results in permanent work restrictions. The severity of your restrictions depends upon the degree of your improvement. The worse your condition after MMI, the heavier the work restrictions you will have to endure.

How Does Your Healthcare Provider Determine the Nature of Your Permanent Work Restrictions?

Your healthcare provider (your doctor and perhaps your physical therapist) will decide on the nature and extent of your permanent work restrictions after a careful evaluation involving:

  •  A thorough medical examination to assess the extent of your injury or illness.
  • A review of your medical history, diagnostic tests such as X-rays or MRIs, and any specialist reports.
  • A Functional Capacity Evaluation (FCE) to measure your strength, flexibility, range of motion, and ability to perform various physical tasks. 

Your healthcare provider will consider all of these factors in light of your job description to determine the specific restrictions you need to prevent further injury.

Below is a listing of some restrictions on your employer’s freedom to fire you for an injury:

  • Many employers choose to purchase workers’ compensation insurance in favor of their employees. Workers’ compensation insurance reimburses you for a portion of your medical expenses and lost earnings arising from work-related injuries. Your employer must also cooperate in seeing to it that their employees receive all due benefits.
  • Employers cannot discriminate against employees with disabilities in violation of federal laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Your work restrictions almost certainly constitute a “disability.” Under the ADA, employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities. That might mean modifying your existing job duties, offering you an alternative position, or providing you with assistive technology.
  • Texas law prohibits your employer from terminating or discriminating against you for filing a workers’ compensation claim. If you suffer a work-related injury and you file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits, the employer cannot legally fire you just for filing the claim.

It is important to consider that your employer’s obligation to accommodate your disability is not unlimited. Their efforts at accommodation must only be “reasonable.” They need not offer accommodations that would impose undue hardship on the business. Your employer can fire you for a disability that would impose undue hardship on the business, subject to their workers’ compensation obligations.

The Impact of Permanent Work Restrictions on Your Eligibility for Workers’ Compensation Benefits

If your injuries are work-related, you can receive long-term wage replacement benefits under the workers’ compensation program. The amount and duration depend on the seriousness of your injuries and the extent of your work restrictions. 

More specifically, the amount of these benefits depends on how much you were making before your injury, whether your disability is partial or total, and whether your disability is temporary or permanent.

You can also receive a lump sum payment for a permanent impairment, such as loss of use of an eye or loss of use of a thumb, that impairs your earning capacity. These payments are above and beyond wage replacement, and they can be quite substantial. 

Permanent work restrictions imposed by your doctor constitute evidence of your disability and could help qualify you for benefits. In any case, direct evidence of your disability could qualify you. 

Contact a Fort Worth Personal Injury Lawyer

Depending on your circumstances, you might need a lawyer to handle a workers’ compensation claim, a lawsuit under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), or an ordinary personal injury lawsuit. Take the time to set up a consultation with a Forth Worth personal injury lawyer with broad experience in workplace accident claims from Stephens Law Firm, PLLC at (817) 420-7000.