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Just What the Doctor Ordered? How to Handle an Injured Employee's Request for Light Duty

Posted by Cesar Juarez on Jun 28, 2017 2:11:50 PM

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Even though they receive intense injury-prevention training, some of the best athletes suffer injuries. And despite all the safety training you provide your employees, some of them may suffer injuries as well. Workplace injuries will understandably cause you and any injured employees a great deal of stress, and they might lead to some tricky situations. What if the injured employee is cleared for full job duties by a physician after the injury but threatens to sue the company if you don’t assign him or her to light duty? Here’s what you need to know to address your employee’s request for light duty.

Worker’s Comp and Discrimination

If an employee files a worker’s compensation claim after sustaining an injury, it is illegal for employers to retaliate against the employee. To avoid an employment discrimination lawsuit, employers need to respect the employee’s doctor’s orders until the employee is cleared to return to work without any restrictions. This means the employee may need to be on leave or assigned to light duty for a time.

Workplace Injuries and the ADA 

Sometimes, the Americans with Disabilities Act as amended may apply to an injured employee. If the employee’s injury will limit a major life activity, it would be considered a disability under the ADA. Employers may be required to reasonably accommodate the employee even after he or she reaches maximum medical recovery; examples of accommodation include assigning light duties, installing a ramp for a wheelchair, or modifying the employee’s hours or duties.

Handling the Employee’s Request

How does this apply to the case of an employee requesting light duty? You may need to assign light duty to the employee until he/she has doctor’s clearance to return to work without any restrictions. If the employee receives this clearance and then asks for light duty, it has to be either because the employee is still healing or because the employee has a disability that requires an accommodation under the ADA. In this case, the employer may need to offer accommodation (such as light duty) to comply with the ADA. 

Unfortunately, anyone from a star athlete to a skilled employee can sustain an injury. While workplace injuries can be stressful, knowing how to handle them legally may help reduce your worries. Contact an employment law attorney for information on how to manage an employee’s return to work after a worker’s compensation injury and how to comply with all ADA requirements. Call your Sioux City Law Firm, Omaha Law Firm or Sioux Falls Law Firm today for all of your employment law needs.

For more information about how an employee's needs may affect your business, check out our blog! http://blog.goosmannlaw.com/human-resources-on-your-side/hr-4-surprising-ways-an-employee-can-claim-retaliation-in-the-workplace

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