If you have injured employees, you may be considering light duty work to help them transition back into their job duties while they are healing. Light duty work can be an excellent way for employees to regain some productivity, and for employers to help reduce workers’ compensation claim costs. Before you offer any light or modified duty, there are some rules and guidelines you should know.
Know the Requirements Under FMLA and ADA
It is important to know what the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) say about light duty positions. For example, the ADA makes it clear that employers are free to provide light duty work on only a temporary basis, and are not required to create permanent light duty positions.
Under the FMLA, employers can offer light duty work, but the employee always reserves the right to take FMLA instead and decline the position.
More generally regarding the types of leave available to injured employees, the ADA, FMLA, and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act all touch on granting medical leave. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has a fact sheet that covers FAQs about these three pieces of legislation such as who is covered, how they overlap, and definitions of terms.
For more information on these topics, check out the resources below:
- AskJan.org: ADA Library
- U.S. Department of Labor: The Employee’s Guide to the Family and Medical Leave Act
- U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: Fact Sheet on The Family and Medical Leave Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
Keep Job Descriptions Current
Maintaining a list of current and detailed job descriptions can be very helpful in establishing light duty positions and when an individual is fully cleared to return to work. These job descriptions should be provided to the physician caring for the injured worker, allowing him or her to see the daily tasks involved in the position and whether the worker is physically able to perform those tasks. Detailed job descriptions aid in the creation of light duty work as well, as management can easily determine which tasks can be modified or eliminated.
Formalize Your Light Duty Work Policy
If you are planning on keeping light duty positions temporary, then a general time frame should be outlined in a policy document. For example, in the Kentucky Employers’ Mutual Insurance Sample Light Duty Work Program, they state:
“The duties available to the employee, with a written release for light-duty work by his/her attending physician, will be transitional and temporary in nature (90 days or discretion of management) designed to be both productive to the company and meaningful to the employee.”
These time frames can be adjusted on a case by case basis, but the policy clearly makes the case that the light duty position is not designed to be a permanent solution.