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“There is No Such Thing as FMLA Light Duty”

April 2013

By: Alan E. Seneczko, Esq.

When dealing with employee medical conditions, at times it seems as if an employer’s obligations are limitless and clarity is as common as a three-legged racehorse. Recently, however, the Seventh Circuit issued a decision that sheds a little more light on this often confusing and frustrating issue.

In James v. Hyatt Regency Chicago, Case No. 12-1511 (7 th Cir. 2013), an employee claimed that his employer interfered with his rights under the FMLA when it refused to reinstate him to his position after his physician released him for work, with restrictions, during his medical leave. Noting that the employee remained unable to perform the essential functions of his position at the time of the release, the court held, “there is no such thing as FMLA light duty,” and dismissed the claim.

Certainly, an employer facing a similar situation must also consider accommodation issues under the ADA and state fair employment laws – which do not generally impose an obligation to provide light duty work for non-work related conditions. Still, in an FMLA world most often colored in “shades of gray,” it is nice to see something in black and white every once in a while.

Questions? Please contact WS Attorney Alan E. Seneczko at (262) 560-9696, or email alseneczko@wesselssherman.com .

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