March 2012 – Disability Accommodations Do Not Include Creating Light Duty Assignments
In an unpublished Appellate Division opinion, Hernandez v. MW Manufacturers, Docket No. A-2071-09T2 (Feb. 1, 2012), the Court reaffirmed that employers are not required to create a “light duty” position for a disabled worker.
In this case, Hernandez was injured on the job and was unable to come back to work as a machine operator. She exhausted her Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) benefits and when she failed to return to work, MW Manufacturers terminated her. Hernandez filed a complaint with the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights, alleging violations of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. She alleged she was discriminated against due to her disability since her employer did not accommodate her disability by offering her a “light duty” office position when she could not fulfill the requirements of a machine operator position. The employer had allowed her to work a light duty position for three weeks before she went out on leave. Hernandez argued that the employer had in the past offered her a light duty position and therefore the employer should be required to offer the position to her indefinitely.
The Appellate Court upheld the decision of the Division on Civil Rights that no cause of action existed. The Court found that the temporary availability of a light duty position did not require the employer to continue that position indefinitely, and the employer was not required to create a light duty position for an employee where none otherwise existed.