Light-duty Work as a Defense to Temporary Total Compensation

Under ORC 4123.56 and OAC 4121-3-32, if a claimant refuses to accept work that is within the physical capabilities provided by the claimant's attending physician, temporary total compensation is not payable. This legal principle was reinforced in State ex rel. Akron Paint & Varnish, Inc. v. Gullotta, showing that light duty work can be both a cost reducer in a claim and an effective defense to the payment of temporary total compensation.

In Akron Paint & Varnish the claimant was offered two suitable jobs by his employer and he refused both of them. The claimant then attempted to seek the award of temporary total compensation, a request that was initially denied by the Industrial Commission. Later, the claimant added a new medical condition to his claim. Under the principle of "continuing jurisdiction" the claimant sought payment for the period of temporary total compensation that was previously denied. A Staff Hearing Officer of the Industrial Commission granted this request based on this new medical condition.

The Supreme Court of Ohio, in agreeing with the Court of Appeals, ruled that this award was improper in light of the claimant's refusal to accept the two job offers from his employer:

Although the worsening of an existing medical condition or a newly allowed medical condition often serves as new and changed circumstances justifying the exercise of continuing jurisdiction to modify a previous order, ... in this case, the previous order denying TTD was not based on medical evidence but rather on the statutory bar of compensation when a claimant unjustifiably refuses light-duty work made available by the employer.

It is imperative that employers provide the light-duty job offer in writing and in great detail so that there is little question that the offer of work is consistent with the medical restrictions of the attending physician. Without this detail, the Industrial Commission can state that the offer is not sufficient and proceed to award temporary total compensation.


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