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Employers try to accommodate light duty restrictions because doing so reduces the cost of a workers’ compensation claim (compared to having the employee stay home and collect benefits). However, if a light duty assignment is different from the employee’s normal position (the individual is not performing the essential functions of the job for which he was hired) it does not need to provide the same wages. Employers may offer an appropriate wage for the light duty work.
Note that if the injured employee is eligible for FMLA, he or she may refuse a light duty offer without consequence. If an employee refuses a light duty offer, but is not protected by FMLA, the company may have the option to terminate for job abandonment. In that case, refusing light duty can be subject to the same disciplinary standards as refusing to perform regular job duties. However, employees cannot be discharged for refusing light duty when FMLA leave is available because the FMLA provides leave until the employee can return to the former position. If the injury is covered by workers’ compensation, the refusal might result in denial of wage replacement benefits, but the employee may still have a legal right to unpaid FMLA leave.