I broke my foot (not at work) and I was out for 2 months. I am now released for light duty work. I’m an apartment maintenance tech who is on my feet all day. What is light duty for my position ?And, do they have to give me light duty? My foot is killing me and still isn’t healed and I can’t afford to be without pay. It doesn’t say anything in the emplyee handbook about light duty. thanks
Light duty assignments pose many problems for workers and employers. The best tactic here would be to talk to the employer to see if any suitable work is available.
There is not necessarily a light duty assignment for every job or every employer.
“Light duty” may mean different things in different circumstances. Generally, it means that the worker can return to work, but still has significant restrictions on his or her activities. A cancer patient having chemotherapy may have a light duty restriction that prohibits working more than 6 hours per day. A woman who is 8 months pregnant may have a restriction that prohibits her from being on her feet for more than an hour at a time.
Many employees are under the impression that “light duty” means they can get paid but don’t have to do much work. This is not true.
In this case, it’s possible that the employee cannot do any significant portion of his job, if he must remain off his feet for most of the day. If there is another job available, that the worker is qualified to perform, then the employer (in most cases) should assign the worker to it temporarily.
However, if there is no other job available, or no other job available that the employee is qualified to do, the employer is under no obligation to create one. In that case, the employee would not be able to return to work until he is cleared by his doctor to handle all of his usual duties.
In the example of the pregnant woman above, if she is a secretary or receptionist, she may well be able to complete most of her job on a light duty restriction. However, if she is a hair stylist who must be on her feet all day, it’s probable that there is not a light duty version of her job.
Suppose Jerry works in a warehouse loading 50-lb. boxes all day. He hurts his back, and after a few weeks Jerry is released to go back to work on light duty. He can only lift 15 lbs. If Jerry’s employer has a job opening in the parts department that requires no lifting, the employer may put Jerry on that job as “light duty.” However, if the only job the company has involves lifting heavy boxes, then Jerry will probably not be able to return to work until he can lift 50 lbs. again.
Some employers have the policy to not permit workers with light duty restrictions to return to work. That’s because they fear re-injury, which could become a workers’ comp claim. Except in cases where the employee legally has a disability, the courts have upheld this policy.
If the employee legitimately has a disability under the EEOC definition, then the employer is required to make a “reasonable accommodation” for that disability. However, the EEOC test for a “disability” is pretty severe. For example, a broken arm doesn’t qualify as a disability.
Reassigning some of the worker’s duties would be a “reasonable accommodation” under ADA, the Americans with Disabilities Act. Hiring a second person to do more than 50% of the employee’s work, because he was unable to do it, would not be a “reasonable accommodation.”
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