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

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
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    Oregon
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    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 49
    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)
    5/10 VBS Dr Luhmann Shriners St Louis
    5/16 6 yrs post-op, 24*T/ 22* L, mild increase in curves, watching

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

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Posts
    3,745
    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...

    jess

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    Location
    New York
    Posts
    17
    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,
    Roxanne
    Roxanne
    Milwaukee Brace 2 years
    Fused 1976
    Fusion Repair 1979

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Posts
    3,745
    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....

    jess

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Location
    British Columbia
    Posts
    918
    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



    http://tinyurl.com/Elias-Before
    http://tinyurl.com/Elias-After

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Location
    Southern CA
    Posts
    2,224
    Please let us know what happened.
    Melissa

    Fused from C2 - sacrum 7/2011

    December 8, 2014 - Another Broken Rod Surgery

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Location
    Oregon
    Posts
    1,160
    Thanks ladies. At Jess's suggestion I found a lot of info under the ADA act, and I believe I may fall into that category temporarily. I believe the ADA law should offer me some protection for "reasonable accommodations." I will not hesitate to mention that if I have to.

    I will post here tomorrow after the meeting.
    Gayle, age 49
    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)
    5/10 VBS Dr Luhmann Shriners St Louis
    5/16 6 yrs post-op, 24*T/ 22* L, mild increase in curves, watching

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

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Location
    Northern California
    Posts
    6,794
    Hi Gayle...

    Sorry to hear that everything is so uncertain. I'll keep my fingers crossed that things turn out well, one way or the other.

    Regards,
    Linda
    Never argue with an idiot. They always drag you down to their level, and then they beat you with experience. --Dilbert
    I'm sarcastic... what's your super power? --Unknown
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Surgery 2/10/93 A/P fusion T4-L3
    Surgery 1/20/11 A/P fusion L2-sacrum w/pelvic fixation
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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  9. #9
    Join Date
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    NC
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    Gayle, I am so sorry to hear of this. It's one thing after another!

    Life is so unfair. Good luck at the meeting.

    Sharon
    Sharon, mother of identical twin girls with scoliosis

    No island of sanity.

    Question: What do you call alternative medicine that works?
    Answer: Medicine


    "We are all African."

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Location
    ny
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    1,809
    Thinking of you, Gayle. Please let us know how the meeting went.
    mariaf305@yahoo.com
    Mom to David, age 17, braced June 2000 to March 2004
    Vertebral Body Stapling 3/10/04 for 40 degree curve (currently mid 20's)

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/ScoliosisTethering/

    http://pediatricspinefoundation.org/

  11. #11
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    Central NJ
    Posts
    1,956
    That's just terrible. Let us know what happens. Let them have it if you need to!
    __________________________________________
    Debbe - 50 yrs old

    Milwalkee Brace 1976 - 79
    Told by Dr. my curve would never progress

    Surgery 10/15/08 in NYC by Dr. Michael Neuwirth
    Pre-Surgury Thorasic: 66 degrees
    Pre-Surgery Lumbar: 66 degrees

    Post-Surgery Thorasic: 34 degrees
    Post-Surgery Lumbar: 22 degrees

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Location
    NJ
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    1,291

    After my revision

    My immediate employer -I was a member of an anesthesia group-bent over backwards for me. I worked only 4 hours the first day, did NOT work in the areas where a lead apron was used. He let me go home if I felt too tired. I was working per-diem so I just got paid for the hours I worked.


    No matter where I worked either as an RN in the recovery room or later as a nurse-anesthetist I never was given a hard time. For example: I had mono and was out a month. The head nurse distributed my days off in such a way that I could rest. After breast cancer surgery I also did not work in an area where lead aprons were used.

    I suspect, just having an attorney write a letter might clear your way without having to go the expensive sue route.
    Original scoliosis surgery 1956 T-4 to L-2 ~100 degree thoracic (triple)curves at age 14. NO hardware-lost correction.
    Anterior/posterior revision T-4 to Sacrum in 2002, age 60, by Dr. Boachie-Adjei @Hospital for Special Surgery, NY = 50% correction

  13. #13
    Join Date
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    Location
    ny
    Posts
    1,809
    Quote Originally Posted by Karen Ocker View Post
    I suspect, just having an attorney write a letter might clear your way without having to go the expensive sue route.
    I was thinking that very same thing....
    mariaf305@yahoo.com
    Mom to David, age 17, braced June 2000 to March 2004
    Vertebral Body Stapling 3/10/04 for 40 degree curve (currently mid 20's)

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/ScoliosisTethering/

    http://pediatricspinefoundation.org/

  14. #14
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Posts
    3,745
    it always helps to have a lawyer's letterhead on any letter sent having to do with any action that
    could turn legal.....
    i was given reasonable accomodation when i could not climb stairs at work after Lyme...
    but it also ruled out some jobs for me....
    i do believe you may qualify as temporarily handicapped...which should require some measures
    be put in place to accomodate you....
    i hope the meeting went in your favor...

    jess

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Location
    Yacolt, WA
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    "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). "

    Gayle: How often does your job involve the above activities? It seems to me that you could look at what you do on a daily basis and make a case for what you do that would be valuable to the unit that would not involve those three actvities, especially the lifting and the pushing beds.

    Involving ADA might be a great way to go. I personnally would resort to bringing out the attorney as a last resort big gun as it might set you up as looking like an adversary.
    Once you do that, your supervisor will be less likely to talk informally with you. Can you talk to him/her and look at your job and see how much of it you CAN do vs what you can't do? Going the ADA route is a good suggestion. I'm not sure what you need to qualify to use that statute. I have a friend who works in hospital admin in Portland and I will copy your email above and send it to her for her suggestions.

    Sorry that this is happening to you. It must be very frustrating to feel that you are a valued employee on one hand and then the hospital won't accomodate you on the other hand. How long are you on this limited status? Also, any chance that the hospital can find you another job like case review for a few months if nothing else?

    Susan
    Adult Onset Degenerative Scoliosis @65, 25* T & 36* L w/ 11.2 cm coronal balance; T kyphosis 90*; Severe disc degen T & L stenosis

    2013: T3- S1 Fusion w/ ALIF L4-S1/XLIF L2-4, PSF T4-S1 in 2 surgeries
    2014: Hernia @ ALIF repaired; Emergency screw removal surgery for Spinal Cord Injury at T4,5 sec to PJK
    2015: Revision Broken Bil T & L rods and no fusion: 2 revision surgeries; hardware P. Acnes infection
    2016: Ant/Lat Lumbar diskectomy w/ 4 cages + BMP + harvested bone + prayer

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