How long after you give your employer a return to work note for light duty, do they have to give you an answer?

I had a workers’ comp case about 4 years ago. I was OK for about 1 1/2 years but then it came back. I went to workers’ comp and they said it was no longer a

workers’ comp case. I was then told to go to my PCP, so I did. I have been out of work for 24 weeks and I got a doctor’s note to return to work full-time light duty. I took it to my manager but he refused to take it and told me that I had to come back with a note for full duty or I had to quit. I called HR and told them he told said that I never talked to him. Now I haven’t heard anything in a week and I am due to go back in a week and a half. What can I do?

Asked on August 24, 2018 under Employment Labor Law, New Jersey


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 2 years ago | Contributor

It is widely believed there is a right to light duty, but in fact there is not, unless there is a written contract or agreement (including a union or collective bargaining agreement) giving you the right to light duty. While an employer must provide a "reasonable accommodation" to an employee's disability, a reasonable accommodation is some change in duties or workplace rules, or provision of some assistance device or technology, which lets the employee do the core or main functions of his or her job. If the employee cannot do the core or main functions of his or her job, the employer does not need to let him or her change jobs, or only do the less important parts of his or her job, or create a new job or position for him or her. So the issue is, if you are restricted to light duty, can you do your job? 
If you can't do your job on "light duty," the employer does not have to let you work; they could suspend you, even terminate you, rather than have to employ you in some other capacity or let you do less work than they need.
On the other hand, if you *can* do the core or critical funcations of your job while on light duty, then the employer needs to accommodate you and you return on a light duty basis. In this event, if they are not, contact the NJ Division on Civil Rights (DCR) about filing a disability discrimination complaint.

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