Can an employer cut hours due to work restrictions?

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Can an employer cut hours due to work restrictions?

A daycare employer cut the hours of a full-time teacher. The employee recently

had surgery and the doctor put the employee on the restrictions of not lifting

more than 10 pounds. The employee usually works 830 to 530. First day back, she was told not needed. Then the second day, she was told to work 10:30-1:30. Can the employer do that? The employee is willing to do anything within the limitations in order to work all day. The employer is limiting options which is giving the employee less hours, ignoring the suggestions that the employee gives to work longer hours. What is legal? What is illegal?

Asked on August 13, 2018 under Employment Labor Law, Florida

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

It depends on how the limitation affects the teacher's ability to do the core or essential functions of her job. If it does not affect them, the employer cannot cut her hours: it would be illegal disability-based discrimination to cut hours for someone due to medical restriction when that person can still do the important functions of her job, and in this case, the teacher could file a complaint with the federal EEOC.
On the other hand, say that an essential function of being a teacher at day care is the ability to lift a child--to pick up an injured one, to comfort a crying one, to pull a child away from danger, to separe children who are fighting, etc. A 10-pound lifting restriction would compromise the teacher's ability to do the core of her job (and possibly compromise child safety). The employer does not need to give her a different job or duties--they are allowed to, but not required to; the teacher has to be able to do the core of the job she had been doing, not some other job. If she cannot do the core functions of her job, the employer could reduce her hours if that compensates for it--or could even suspend or terminate her. While the employer must accommodate her in regards to many limitations, the law still she requires that she can function in the job she'd had. In this event, she would not have any viable legal claim for the reduction in hours.


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