The answer to this question depends upon several things including what restrictions your surgeon has given you. If the treating authorized surgeon says you are not able to work, then "no" you should not be forced to return to work and instead should receive weekly workers' compensation benefits so long as the insurance company has admitted that your work injury is related to your work activities.
If your doctor says to return to work with restrictions, let's say you have light duty work restrictions which include lifting up to 25 pounds, then "yes", you should contact your employer and provide them with a copy of your work restrictions. You should also make it clear that you are ready, willing and able to work within the restrictions provided. If you employer offers you work, then you need to at least try to do the job. You should keep a copy of your work restrictions in your pocket and if you are asked to work outside of those restrictions you should show your employer written proof about what you can and cannot do. If you have difficulties doing your work even within your restrictions, then you should notify your employer and also contact your surgeon to notify him/her of the problems you are having with your work. Often times, this will result in you talking to the doctor's nurse, but if you are not satisfied you should ask to schedule an appointment with the doctor. Your doctor can change your restrictions if you are having issues working within them.
If your employer does not offer you work, then you or your work injury attorney should contact the insurance company to notify them that you should be receiving weekly TTD- temporary total disability benefits as the employer does not have work within your restrictions.
If your employer offers you work and you decide to not at least try to do the work offered then chances are that bad things will happen such as:
1. You will probably not receive weekly workers' compensation benefits;
2. You may end up being fired from your job;
3. You may be denied unemployment because you refused to accept suitable work; and/or
4. The value of your workers comp case may be dramatically reduced for failing to accept the work offered. Regardless of what is true, if you do not accept work within your restrictions, your employer will always argue that regardless of what your permanent restrictions end up being that they would have accommodated them.
As you can see "no" you cannot be forced to return to work, but there are consequences given the facts in the case which could result in your having no income, being denied unemployment and ultimately damaging the value of your case. Return to employment with restrictions is a very important part of your case and if you have questions or concerns feel free to contact one of our Iowa workers compensation attorneys at (641) 792-3595. Also, if you do not already have our book about Iowa work injuries that we offer at no cost, you should request a copy as it explains return to work and other issues in more detail.