Must an employer accomodate medically assigned light duty for a work-related injury?

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Must an employer accomodate medically assigned light duty for a work-related injury?

i am a nurse and have a work related injury. At the time of injury I was seen by the occupational health MD and placed on light duty. However, my employer denied me light duty. During this time there was another nurse that was pregnant that was given light duty. I was told by HR later that when it was a work-related injury they do accommodate light duty. Do I have a descrimination case?

Asked on September 1, 2010 under Employment Labor Law, California

Answers:

S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

The employer is only required to reasonably accommodate your medical restrictions.  The employer may be unable to accommodate your medical restrictions based on the description of your job duties by finding a comparable position at either your current place of employment or if there is more than one location, at a facility within a reasonable distance.  Your injury is work-related.  Your pregnant colleague does not have a work-related injury.  It is possible that your employer is able to accommodate a pregnant employee, but is not able to accommodate the medical restrictions from your particular work-related injury.  This is not discrimination because your situation is a work- related injury and depending on the type of injury you have, not all work-related injuries can be reasonably accommodated by the employer while your pregnant colleague does not have a work-related injury.  If both you and the other nurse had identical work-related injuries and the other nurse was accommodated with light duty and you were not, depending on the particular facts and the reason your employer was unable to accommodate you, there may be evidence to support your discrimination claim.  Discrimination is difficult to prove. 

Since your employer is unable to accommodate your medical restrictions, you may be eligible for a disability retirement.  Your HR department should have the application form and information on the procedure for filing for disability retirement.  If you decide to pursue a disability retirement and your employer denies your application, you can challenge the denial in court.  Disability retirement income is calculated based on your average income over a period of years. 


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