Work Comp Appeals Board Issues Opinion on Temporary Work

The Tennessee Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board recently issued an opinion addressing whether an employer may arrange temporary transitional work for an employee during a period of disability instead of paying Temporary Total Disability (TTD).

The brief facts are that an employee was injured and placed on restricted duty therefore unable to perform his regular job as a commercial driver. The employer secured a temporary job for employee within employee’s work restrictions. While working the temporary job, the employee would be paid his full wages instead of the lesser TTD amount. Interestingly enough, employee refused the temporary job. The only reason given was he did not want to work for a different employer.

The question before the court was whether the employer could stop paying the employee’s TTD since employee refused the available, temporary work. The Work Comp Appeals Board looked at TCA 50-6-114(a) – which says that an employer may not use any device, rule or contract to relieve the employer of its obligations under the Tennessee Work Comp Act.

The Board held that the temporary transitional work program was not intended to violate, nor did it violate, TCA 50-6-114(a). Therefore, an employer may find reasonable, temporary, transitional work for an employee even if it is with another employer.

The second question before the Appeals Board was whether or not the available temporary work excused employer from its duty to pay TTD compensation. The Board held that the employee’s reasons for refusing the work were purely personal, and that the employer did not have to continue to pay the employee TTD since there was a reasonable job available.