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FMLA Light Duty Regulations

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Light duty at work may be required for a few different reasons, including on-the-job injuries or other medical conditions restricting the type of jobs that can be performed. The Family Medical Leave Act grants those needing time off for medical reasons of their own, or those of an immediate family member, for up to 12 weeks in a year. The act also states restrictions and regulations involving the necessity for light duty work.

FMLA Balance

The time when an employee is on light duty does not count toward his balance of FMLA leave and time off. As long as the employee is showing up for work and completes light duty assignments given by employer, all of the time available for leave remains. The balance is only affected if the employee takes time off for a doctor's appointment or calls in sick.


Light duty does not have to be available through the employer if the illness or injury occurred after the employee was hired and placed in a position. If the employee is no longer or temporarily unable to perform the duties they were hired for, it is a courtesy for the employer to offer something considered light duty.

If no light duty is available, the employee can call in sick, using FMLA leave for the time remaining, and using all available sick leave and paid vacation time to supplement her income. In some states, unemployment claims can be filed during the time the employee is out of work while on restrictions, but not until all other avenues of pay have been exhausted.

Return to Work

If an employee has been placed on light duty by the employer and has been medically released to go back to his regular duties prior to FMLA leave time expiration, the employer must put him back in the same position or a similar one. The employee cannot be demoted or fired during this period. If the employee has exhausted all FMLA time, then the employer does not have to give the original job back and can even let the employee go.

Forced Work

An employer cannot force an employee who cannot return to an original position to conduct light duty work. The employee can choose to call in sick or refuse light duty, but if the employee was injured on the job, is offered light duty and refuses it, she can be denied any worker’s compensation benefits.


Heather Leigh Landon has been a writer since 1988 when she started her career as a stringer for "The McHenry Star News." Since then she has worked for newspapers such as "The Woodstock Independent," "The Northwest Herald" and "Press Journal." Landon graduated from William Rainey Harper College with an Associate of Applied Science in journalism.