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Thread: Can employers legally refuse to allow temporary light duty?

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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2008

    Can employers legally refuse to allow temporary light duty?

    Hi all,

    I am a nurse in a moderate-sized hospital within a larger community-bases health care system. I had an extensive revision surgery 12 weeks ago for pseudoarthrosis/broken rods in my lumbar. I have been off work on FMLA since surgery, and today is the last day of my FMLA. I was due to return to work tomorrow. I saw my surgeon Tuesday, and he thinks it best if I return to work on limited duty, meaning no lifting, no pushing beds, and no wearing a lead apron (I work in invasive cardiology where we do fluoro procedures all day long).

    Unfortunately, my employer and it's HR department says it does not allow workers to return to work on any type of light duty--they want me to return with no restrictions. When I had my original fusion surgery 18 months ago, they did allow me to return for 3 months on the same restrictions I am given now. I was told they were making a special exception for me because I am a very valuable employee in the department, and because I could still make an active contribution to the work group by doing primarily seated work.

    I took my return to work note to HR on Tuesday after my appointment. They called yesterday to schedule a meeting for Friday (the day I am due back at work) with the Director of HR and the Director of my department (not my immediate supervisor but the big boss). Now this same type of meeting occurred last time I was allowed to return on restrictions, but I am very nervous now because no one will tell me anything. They will not tell me if I am staying for the work day Friday (doesn't sound like it). My immediate supervisor tells me he can not give me any information. This all makes me think it's going to be bad news. I get the feeling they will say well, we made an exception once for you, we can't do it again.

    I am totally freaked out about this, and wondering if anyone has any suggestions or advice. Can they deny my light duty after it was allowed the year before? Are there any laws protecting workers in this regard? I am the income-earner in our family, and this unplanned financial burden has been disastrous for us. I have no disability or other income source. Our savings is running low and I definitely can not afford to stay off another 3 months.
    Last edited by leahdragonfly; 04-26-2012 at 10:06 AM.
    Gayle, age 50
    Oct 2010 fusion T8-sacrum w/ pelvic fixation
    Feb 2012 lumbar revision for broken rods @ L2-3-4
    Sept 2015 major lumbar A/P revision for broken rods @ L5-S1

    mom of Leah, 15 y/o, Diagnosed '08 with 26* T JIS (age 6)
    2010 VBS Dr Luhmann Shriners St Louis
    2017 curves stable/skeletely mature

    also mom of Torrey, 12 y/o son, 16* T, stable

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2009
    there is info on internet....i looked it up...
    says to contact Human Rights Commission or lawyer (for violation of
    Americans with Disabilities Act...)
    just knowing you took such action might make employer rethink their position...


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    New York
    Hi leahdragonfly,
    I hope your meeting goes well.

    If it does not, you might want to contact the Department of Labor. I do not know Oregon's laws, but perhaps there are some stop gap measures or assistance they can recommend. Best wishes,
    Milwaukee Brace 2 years
    Fused 1976
    Fusion Repair 1979

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2009
    good luck at the meeting, Gayle
    please let us know how it goes.....
    i hope the employer doesn't pull one of those liability things....
    you know..."we don't want you to get hurt, or accidenty hurt someone else" etc...
    i do hope you can consult with a lawyer if the meeting doesn't go well for you....


  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    British Columbia
    I have no ideas what the labour laws are in Oregon/US but we have government agency here called 'Employment Standards' which I'm sure you guys have something similar to this down there and I'd definitely be contacting them first if you're not satisfied with the outcome of your meeting. Is it tomorrow? Try not to worry about it too much until you hear what they have to say and then go from there. Keep us posted Gayle b/c now I am very curious to know how things go.
    Son 14 y/o diagnosed January 20th. 2011 with 110* Curve
    Halo Traction & 1st. surgery on March 22nd. 2011
    Spinal Fusion on April 19th. 2011

    Dr. Krajbich @ Shriners Childrens Hospital, Portland Oregon

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Southern CA
    Please let us know what happened.

    Fused from C2 - sacrum 7/2011

    December 8, 2014 - Another Broken Rod Surgery

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