N.C.G.S. § 97-2(22) – New Definition for Suitable Employment

With the new Workers’ Comp legislation passed in North Carolina in 2011, the North Carolina Workers’ Comp Act has been amended to provide an additional definition for “suitable employment” under N.C.G.S. § 97-2(22):

Suitable employment. – The term “suitable employment” means employment offered to the employee or, if prohibited by the Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 U.S.C. § 1324a, employment available to the employee that (i) prior to reaching maximum medical improvement is within the employee’s work restrictions, including rehabilitative or other noncompetitive employment with the employer of injury approved by the employee’s authorized health care provider or (ii) after reaching maximum medical improvement is employment that the employee is capable of performing considering the employee’s preexisting and injury-related physical and mental limitations, vocational skills, education, and experience and is located within a 50‑mile radius of the employee’s residence at the time of injury or the employee’s current residence if the employee had a legitimate reason to relocate since the date of injury. No one factor shall be considered exclusively in determining suitable employment.

This statute makes it easier for employers to cut off employee benefits for pre-MMI workers by offering a job that falls within the employee’s work restrictions and is approved by the employee’s health care provider. This definition only applies, however, to workers whose injury occurred after enactment of the new legislation on June 24, 2011. If you were injured prior to that date, there is a more stringent requirement for suitable employment.

If you have been asked to return to work, you should contact a workers comp lawyer who can help you decide whether the position offered is suitable to you.