Is Your Job Offer Letter Sufficient?
When a valued employee is injured and unable to work, it tends to cause a disruption to the entire team. Employers are highly motivated to see their employees get better and return to work as soon as possible. This applies even more if the employee was an asset and a valued member of the team. However, employers should always make sure that their employee is medically able to return to work or has been cleared to return to work by a doctor before bringing them back on board. This ensures that there is a medical basis for the employer’s return to work.
What happens when your employee is not at 100% capacity but can still work in a light duty capacity? Whether you are seeking to have your employee come back to improve team morale or to fill that crucial role which will help your company reach the next level, you want to be certain that you make a valid light duty job offer to your employee and also explain exactly what he/she is coming back to! Failure to do so could result in a lack of clarity as to what the modified job entails. Moreover, it could also set the employer back by way of a judicial finding that your company has not made a bona fide job offer.
So what should the light duty offer letter include? Your initial task will be to make sure that the light duty job offer contains specific job duties that are based on the medical limitations provided by the claimant’s doctor. The offer should have the employee’s job title, specific enumerated job duties, lifting/pulling requirements and hours and days to be worked. Furthermore, care should be taken to ensure that the date of the offer letter is not post-dated after the proposed offer acceptance date which may happen if there are multiple drafts of a light duty offer sent within the organization. Moreover, there should be a specific point person that the employee should be in contact with to discuss and accept the offer. The letter can also contain any additional information relative to restrictions.
Some examples are the ability to perform the job in a seated position or explaining that the work will occur in the first floor of your company eliminating the need to negotiate stairs. The letter should also be signed and the employee’s attorney, if any, should be cc'ed. Clearly, the contents of the letter will differ by each specific employee and their particular injury and treatment.
Why so specific? The reason an employer should be as clear as possible is because the employee’s decision to either accept or reject the job offer will legally determine whether he/she has voluntarily withdrawn from the labor market. Indeed, the issue of voluntary withdrawal from the labor market is a question of fact for a law judge to decide in Workers' Compensation Court. The determination of whether the claimant has voluntarily withdrawn is fully dependent on whether or not the employer issued a valid light duty position that is consistent with his/her medical limitations.
Assuming the above is followed, an employer should feel comfortable that a sufficient job offer letter has been issued. However, if you have any questions on the language of a letter or your specific circumstances, please reach out to our office via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or 201-880-9374.