NO! Your employer cannot force you back to work after a work injury before you are ready though they might try to. You should follow the advice of your own treating doctor when deciding when it is best for you to return to work after an injury. If you are only treating with the company or panel doctor at the time, you should consult with your own doctor or, a doctor of your choice if you disagree with the company doctor that you can work. Another option is to try to return to work and see if your employer really has work within your restrictions, especially in a situation where you were released for light work only. If you find out that you are not able to do the work offered by your employer when you return to work or, that the work was not light work as promised, you can always stop working and go back out on workers’ compensation benefits. Whatever you decide, you should only return to work after receiving medical clearance to go back to work in some capacity. Your health is most important. You do not want to do anything that might aggravate your injury until you are healthy enough to return to work.
You might receive a Notice of Ability to Return to Work in the mail from your employer. Do not be alarmed! Your employer is obligated by law to send this Notice to you whenever they receive medical information that you can work in some capacity, whether the medical release is from their doctor or your own. The purpose of the Notice is to advise you of your legal obligation to look for work after you have been released to return to work following a work injury. But, if the Notice of Ability to Return to Work is based on the employer’s doctor and you disagree with the release, you should discuss returning to work with your doctor before actually going back to work or, before you start looking for work.