Do employees have the right to light duty?


The onset of industrialization brought a demand for efficiencies. Significant attention was spent monitoring workers time on routine tasks. Once a standard was set, workers were held to it. Underperforming was punished and overperforming was rewarded.

With the demand for package delivery increasing rapidly, more and more warehouse managers are beginning to obsess over increasing efficiency to the detriment of the workers. A case in point is Amazon where workers have reported increased pressure to shorten bathroom breaks and even jog from one task to another. Combining a dangerous job like warehouse work with such high-performance standards is a recipe for disaster.

On the job injuries

One Amazon employee who injured both knees trying to keep up with the demands of the job, saw a company doctor in 2015. The doctor provided the employee with knee braces and an order for light duty. Despite this, the employee was immediately forced to return to full duty.

Do employees have a right to light duty?

Injured employees are often eligible for light duty work, but employers, afraid of losing valuable production, can make light duty work hard to get. Here is a reminder of an employee’s rights to light duty work.

  • No light duty available. For many employers, there is no requirement to offer light duty work. If it is not available and a physician supports the claim, temporary disability benefits are in order.
  • Implications of light duty. Light duty may have a significant impact on that employee’s protections under FMLA or workers’ compensation.
  • Refusal of light duty. If the injured employee’s medical provider has not authorized light duty, the employee has a right to refuse the offer in place of a medical leave.
  • Violation of light duty.If an employer pressures an injured worker to work outside of the approved scope, a physician will intervene and set the course of action.

Employees injured on the job have rights. A work injury is a serious matter and often requires legal attention to avoid employment law violations.

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