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Refusing Reasonable Offer of Employment

When must an employee who is disabled by an accident at work accept a substitute job? Two Workers’ Compensation Commission decisions considered this question:

In the first case, a vocational rehabilitation service found a job for an injured worker that was within the written, physical restrictions imposed by his doctor. The worker refused to undertake a one-month trial of the job stating that there were other restrictions imposed by his doctor, and also that he could be expelled from his union if he accepted.

The Court affirmed the Workers’ Compensation Commission in denying temporary benefits after the scheduled starting date of this job. The Court found that the offered job was within the doctor’s written physical restrictions. The Court also noted that the claimant was merely speculating about the results of taking a non-union position, and that finding a union job was not part of the employer’s obligation to provide vocational rehabilitation.

In another case, the claimant, a machine operator, suffered from a skin condition which a doctor termed “industrial acne.” The claimant resigned from her job and turned down an offer to work a 3:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. shift as a cashier at a gas station because she would not feel safe working alone during those hours at that location. The Workers’ Compensation Commission held that this was a legitimate reason for turning down the cashier’s job.

However, the Commission felt that the worker had unduly limited her availability for employment by stating in her job search that she would not travel more than twenty miles to a job. The Commission then reduced her award from permanent total disability to 60% loss of the person as a whole.

These cases illustrate the desire of the Workers’ Compensation Commission to return injured workers to the work force within their physical limitations. The consequences of an employee’s blanket refusal to take a job other than the one he had when he was injured can be significant. When questions arise as to whether an injured employee should accept a job that is offered, we are always happy to give our opinion based upon the facts of each case. If you have any questions on the subject, please contact us.