Employers are not required to provide a light-duty position indefinitely, the New Jersey Supreme Court recently ruled, overturning an Appellate Division decision.
A Gloucester County corrections officer was diagnosed with Graves’ disease, which gave him double vision and prevented him from working in contact with inmates. The sheriff’s department put him in a light-duty position, which he held for several years.
The sheriff’s department subsequently issued an order limiting light duty to 30 days, and placed the officer on involuntary disability retirement. The officer sued for disability discrimination.
The state Supreme Court ruled that because the officer’s disability prevented him from having contact with inmates, he was unable to perform the essential tasks of his job. Employers are not obligated to extend light-duty assignments to employees who are permanently disabled.
Final note: Under both federal and state disability discrimination laws, employees must show they can perform the essential functions of their jobs with or without accommodations. You aren’t required to create entirely new jobs within the employees’ restrictions—just to make reasonable accommodations. Sometimes, that’s just not possible.
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