What Are Work Restrictions?

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Receiving time off work that is covered by workers’ compensation requires that one be injured or disabled in a way that their ability to perform the routine tasks of their job is diminished. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the worker is completely incapable of any aspect of their job, but that they have limitations on the quality and quantity of the work that they do. 

To determine the level of restrictions on someone’s work, their current capacity to carry out those tasks must be compared to their capacity prior to injury. That is the only way to determine the true nature of the injury and how severe its limitations are likely to be. This is important information for the employer to log away as they attempt to assess what steps to take next. 

When you need to know what are work restrictions, you probably want to know some specific examples of what they are. People often get caught in the loop of wondering “what are work restrictions?” to the point that they cannot figure out what they need to know. Fortunately, we have the answers.

For a worker to be placed on work restrictions, they must first see a doctor who can give them the green light to be on restrictions like that. The doctor will determine this only after a complete examination of the patient. 

Examples of Work Restrictions

Let’s talk about work restriction examples for a moment. You might ask yourself what specific restrictions a doctor is likely to dole out after having spent some time with the patient. There are certain activities that the doctor is very likely to request that the patient stay away from in order to protect their health, such as:

1. Heavy Lifting

Most doctors will recommend that a patient on work restrictions stay away from any tasks that involve heavy lifting. For work restrictions purposes, heavy lifting is defined based on what the patient was able to lift prior to their injury. It is assumed that the patient has lost at least a quarter of their ability to lift heavy objects. So, the doctor will determine roughly how much the patient should be allowed to lift now based on those calculations. When possible, the patient ought not to lift anything much at all. 


2. Repetitive Motions of the Neck or Back

Some jobs require workers to make repetitive motions to accomplish their tasks. Think about people who work loading packages and things like that. They are called upon to move their neck and back in certain ways over and over again. It is not only potentially painful for them to do this, but it could risk additional injury to areas of the body that had been injured previously. If a worker is suffering from something like whiplash, for example, then it makes sense that the doctor would order that the patient be taken off of that type of work immediately. 

Of all of the work restriction examples, this is the one that applies frequently to people who are working in factory jobs or similar lines of work that require them to make the same motions time and time again. It can happen to anyone in those lines of work, and they can cause themselves additional injuries when they are not properly cared for. 


3. Limited to Sedentary Work

Certain injuries require a patient to spend their days doing sedentary work until they are able to recover. The Social Security Administration provides a precise definition of what sedentary work is:

Sedentary work involves lifting no more than 10 pounds at a time and occasionally lifting or carrying articles like docket files, ledgers, and small tools. Although a sedentary job is defined as one which involves sitting, a certain amount of walking and standing is often necessary in carrying out job duties. Jobs are sedentary if walking and standing are required occasionally and other sedentary criteria are met.”

Essentially, the worker will be limited to work that can be accomplished at a desk for a period of time to be determined by their doctor. Once they are healed from their injuries, they may be able to return to more active work depending on what the doctor recommends.

From the work restriction examples that we have provided here, this one at least still allows the worker to do certain tasks and maintain some level of productivity at their job. 


4. No Substantial Work 

When people ask “what are work restrictions?”, this level of work restriction is what often comes to mind. It is established when a doctor states that their patient has lost at least 75% of their ability to do the tasks involved with their job. They are likely to serve little purpose at work aside from extremely basic tasks such as filing paperwork. Some employers may decide that it is best if a worker in this condition simply remains at home, even if they are still paid for their time. The risk of having someone at work when they are unable to perform much work at all is too great for many employers to take on. 

What to Do if Your Employer Violates Your Work Restrictions?

Employers sometimes get fed up with the work restrictions that are recommended for their employees, and they may lash in ways that are both unproductive and illegal.


A work restriction is not just a suggestion or a recommendation from a doctor, it is an order. If you looked at the work restriction examples from above, it is pretty clear that someone who receives these instructions should follow them. If it is not followed, the patient could risk further harming themselves or prolonging the healing process of their injury. As such, employers must respect the doctor’s orders in these situations and allow the employee to be on work restrictions for the amount of time that is needed for their injury to heal. This is good not just for the worker, but also for the company as they attempt to avoid additional downtime and the potential for a lawsuit. 

Those who run up against an employer who has violated their work restrictions should seek legal counsel immediately. This move is made not to cause a rift between yourself and your employer (though this may result anyway), but to ensure that the law is respected and followed. 

Work restrictions exist not to allow an employee to slack off or take advantage of the system, but to give their body time to heal from an injury. When it comes down to it, this is a health matter that you should take very seriously. 

If you obtain an attorney after your employer has violated the work restrictions, you can: 

  • Have someone who will dedicate themselves to working on your case
  • Start to gather evidence to back up your claims right away
  • Put pressure on your employer to cease their work restriction violations immediately
  • Give yourself some peace of mind that someone is coming to help you

Know that you know the answer to the question “what are work restrictions?”, put your trust in the talented attorneys at Mottaz & Sisk Injury Law and allow us to handle your case from here. You now have a few work restriction examples to look for, so you can focus on staying rested and getting healthy once again. Contact us today to schedule your free case evaluation.