CFRA: Light duty OK following injury

A California employer didn’t violate the California Family Rights Act when it allowed a worker to return to light-duty work following an on-the-job light injury.

Recent case: Fernando was a construction worker whose job involved stripping, cleaning and dismantling concrete forms. One day in February, he was hit in the shoulder by a falling, four-foot square piece of plywood. The site safety manager found Fernando sitting dazed on a material cart and took him to the hospital.

The medical report indicated that Fernando was wearing a hard hat but was “stunned” when hit. He did not lose consciousness, but had a head contusion, a cervical strain and contusion on his right hand. The medical staff released him to return to modified work the same day. He was told to apply ice and take Advil—and not to lift more than 10 pounds for the next week.

Fernando signed a return-to-work agreement that specified modified duties. He reported that he found the work “easy” and returned to his regular job after a week spent doing light-duty work.

Three months later, he was laid off. He sued, alleging that his right to leave under the California Family Rights Act had been violated.

The court dismissed his lawsuit. It said Fernando had not shown he had a serious health condition. He did not get a prescription, was not told to take time off and was not told to ­follow up with a health care provider following initial treatment. Therefore, he wasn’t entitled to leave under the CFRA when he initially requested it. (Barboza v. Webcor Construction, Court of Appeal of California, 2017)

Final note: The employer also countered Fernando’s claim that he had been laid off in retaliation for being injured by showing that the project was winding down and that his job was no longer necessary.