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Can I Be Fired for Just Cause if I am on Light Duty?

Dec 3, 2021 | Workers' Compensation


Indiana is an at-will state for employment, which means you can be fired at any time for any reason, except for discrimination. So long as your employer is not firing you for filing a workers’ compensation claim and other reasons forbidden by law, the employer can discharge you from employment at any time.

Often, employers avoid firing employees while they are on workers’ compensation benefits because it can create grey areas for the reason behind that firing. But once you return to light duty or your full position, things change a bit. Even though you’ve returned to a job that is different from your original work, you must still complete that work satisfactorily to continue employment.

This means that you need to be giving the light-duty job your best effort and avoid common employment pain points, such as:

  • Showing up late
  • Turning in work past the deadline
  • Being insubordinate to a superior
  • Engaging in criminal behavior
  • Violence or harassment

If your employer can prove that they fired you for traditional reasons, your termination is completely legal even though you were on light duty.

We’ll provide an outline of some key Indiana workers’ compensation laws and how changes in your status can impact your employer’s ability to fire you or make changes to your employment.

Does My Indiana Employer Have to Offer Light Duty?

Your employer does not necessarily have to offer you a light-duty job once your medical provider has approved for you to return to light-duty employment. However, the Worker’s Compensation Act does incentivize employers for offering such work.

If your pay for light duty is below that of your full duty job before your injury or you’re unable to work the number of hours you had previously, you can qualify for temporary partial disability (TPD) payments. However, if your light duty wages exceed the average weekly wage as outlined in Indiana workers’ compensation laws, you won’t be eligible for TPD.

Are My Indiana Workers’ Compensation Payments Taxable?

If you’re looking at your workers’ compensation benefits and feeling a little down by your loss in income, realize that these payments are not taxable. That means that although you’re only receiving two-thirds of your original average weekly wage as outlined in Indiana Code §22-3-3-9 when on temporary total disability, you won’t be paying income taxes on those funds.

However, your light duty payments can be taxable and subject to traditional tax withholding and payment for benefits and other fees, such as union dues.

Does My Employer Have to Heed My Doctor’s Orders for When I Can Return to Work?

Yes, so long as your doctor states that you are not yet fit for duty, your employer should provide appropriate work options or continue paying workers’ compensation.

If your doctor deems you fit for duty but you don’t feel ready to return yet, your employer can discontinue workers’ compensation payments. It’s up to the employer’s discretion as to whether to hold your job for you or to terminate your employment if you don’t return once your doctor says you are ready.

In some cases, employers deny a workplace injury claim and refuse to make accommodations for injured workers. In those cases, you might need a workers’ compensation attorney to fight for your rights and ensure you receive the financial coverage you deserve.

Contact Stewart & Stewart for a free Indiana workers’ compensation case review. 

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