Wage and Hour Division (WHD)
November 15, 1993
This is in response to your request for an advisory opinion under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) regarding mandatory "modified" or "light duty" job programs for temporarily disabled employees.
You ask if an employer can require a temporarily disabled "eligible employee," who seeks FMLA leave for a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the employee's position, to accept an alternative position (with similar pay and benefits) that has been modified to eliminate the essential functions which the employee cannot perform. If so, you ask if the employer can deny the requested FMLA leave and require the employee's presence at work in the modified job.
The FMLA Regulations, 29 CFR Part 825, at § 825.702(d), provide that if FMLA entitles an employee to leave, an employer may not, in lieu of FMLA leave entitlement, require the employee to take a job with a reasonable accommodation. Thus, an employer could not require an employee to work in a restructured job instead of granting the employee's FMLA leave request in the example you posed in your inquiry.
FMLA does not prohibit an employer from accommodating an employee's request to be restored to a different shift, schedule, or position which better suits the employee's personal needs on return from leave [see § 825.215(e)(4)], but the employee cannot be induced by the employer to accept a different position against the employee's wishes.
As noted in your letter, § 825.204 of the regulations addresses temporary transfers to alternative positions with equivalent pay and benefits for employees who request intermittent leave or leave on a reduced leave schedule for planned medical treatment, including for a period of recovery from a serious health condition.
* Note: The actual name(s) was removed to preserve privacy in accordance with 5 U.S.C. 552 (b)(7).