UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022
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I work as a CNA in a nursing home. One day I was assisting in a resident transfer and I hurt my back. I reported it HR that day and saw their comp doctor a few hours after. They put me on light duty and gave me that night off, both of which my employer agreed upon. After returning to work I was pretty much given my usual assignment complete with transfers and repositioning that the paper I received from their doctor said I was not to do. So that night I hurt my back again. The next night was pretty much the same a little lighter but I was still doing transfers and lifting. hurt my back again lifting a resident who was choking That night my supervisor told me he was sorry but there’s no such thing as light duty here. So I took my personal days to avoid repeating that scenario. About a week later still on light duty I return to work and I spent the day being told about how lazy I was for doing light work by my peers and supervisors,and still they have me completing transfer and lifting. I don’t know what to do at this point really.
Asked on March 12, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, Pennsylvania
SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney
Answered 6 years ago | Contributor
Unfortunately, an employer is under no obligation to give an employee light duty: an employee must be able to do his or her job, and the employer does not need to transfer him/her to a different position or make-up/create a new job for him or her. If you can't do your job, you can use PTO to be absent; and/or you may be eligible for unpaid leave under FMLA (you can find the FMLA criteria on the Dept. of Labor website: in brief, the employer must have at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius, and you must have worked there at least a year and worked at least 1,250 hours during the 12 months); but otherwise, if you don't/can't use PTO or FMLA to cover absences from work, your employer does not need to give you different duties than you had, and can terminate you if you can't or won't do your job, even for medical reasons.
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