Can an employee refuse to return to work when he was released back to full duty without restrictions by an IME?

Employee got hurt in April of 2016 and has been on light duty ever since. He has had MRI’s, shots, therapy and chose his own doctor. After all of this, the WC claims lady had him see an IME. The IME said there is nothing wrong with him, he has been milking this long enough and is released back to full duty without restrictions. His WC benefits for medical have been halted but the indemnity part is still in tact albeit at a reduces amount. The employee schedule surgery himself and then canceled it himself and is refusing to return to full duty.
What recourse do I have as an employer as this person is making everyone miserable.

Asked on October 19, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, Maine

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

No, an employee has no right to "light duty"--ever. (Unless, that is, there some contract, including a union  agreement, giving him that right.) If an employee cannot do his or her full job, even with some "reasonable accommodation" (a change in rules/procedures, or provision of some assistive device, like a wrist rest or ergonomic keyboard for carpal tunnel syndrome, which change or device is not too expensive or disruptive for the employer *and* lets the employee do his/her full job), the employer does not need to continue employing him or her. If the employee cannot do his or her job, the employer *may*, if it chooses (and only for so long as it chooses) put him or her on light duty. If the employer chooses to not do this, or has decided that enough is enough, if the employee does not return to his or her job and do all its responsibilities, he or she may be terminated. (Unless he or she is eligible for and uses unpaid FMLA leave, or uses PTO he/she earned, to stay out; but once he/she runs out of FMLA leave or PTO, he'd have to return or else be terminated.) You don't have to let this employee work light duty; you, not the employee, decide what the job is, and you may, as stated, terminate him if he won't return to full work after you tell him to do so.


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