AFSCME Iowa Council 61 - Every Day. Everywhere. Making Iowa Better.

Ask AFSCME's Attorney: FML AND LIGHT DUTY WORK

ASK OUR ATTORNEY MARK HEDBERG: FML AND LIGHT DUTY WORK

If a healthcare provider treating an employee for a workers' compensation injury certifies that the employee is able to return to light duty work but is unable to return to the same or an equivalent position that the employee left, the employee may decline the employer's light duty offer and continue on FMLA leave until his or her leave entitlement is exhausted. However, if an employee accepts such light duty work, the time spent performing such duties does not count against an employee's FMLA leave entitlement. Further, according to the DOL, an employee's right to job restoration to his or her original position is "effectively held in abeyance" during the period of time that the employee works in the light duty role. However, the right to job restoration in such circumstances "ceases at the end of the applicable twelve-month FMLA leave year" used by the employer to calculate leave. In short, according to the DOL, "if an employee is voluntarily performing a light duty assignment, the employee is not on FMLA leave" but may have FMLA job restoration protection (in some cases well beyond the normal twelve-week period from the employee's original FMLA leave date). However this also raises a question under Iowa Workers’ Compensation law. If suitable work is offered by the employer i.e. light duty, and the employee refuses the work they can be denied workers’ compensation during the period of refusal, however, they still would have restoration rights under FMLA.

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