In Hendricks v. Compass Group, USA, Inc., No. 06-3637, 2007 U.S. App. LEXIS 1860-6 (7th Cir. Aug. 6, 2007), the employee injured her shoulder at work while performing her vending driver duties. She applied for workers' compensation benefits, but did not apply for FMLA leave. Instead of taking FMLA leave, Hendricks elected to take light duty under her workers' compensation program. While on light duty she was paid $3.23 less per hour than her regular wages.
Hendrick's sued alleging that Compass violated the FMLA by paying her less while she was on "FMLA light duty." The Seventh Circuit disagreed, finding that "[t]here is no such thing as 'FMLA light duty.'" The FMLA, the Court observed, does not require an employer to pay a certain pay rate while the employee is on leave; the FMLA only requires that an employer permit an employee to take up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave for illness and return to his prior post or an equivalent position. Light duty is a creature of workers' compensation. As such, the rate of pay the employee is to receive while on light duty is a matter covered by workers' compensation, not the FMLA.
Comment: FMLA leave is unpaid. An employee who elects to go on light duty in conjunction with FMLA leave will be paid at the rate dictated by worker's compensation and/or the employer's policies. The FMLA does not dictate any particular rate of pay. Hendricks tried to argue that the employer failed to return her to an equivalent position from FMLA leave, as demonstrated by her lower wage rate. The Seventh Circuit found that the wage rate was dictated by workers compensation, not the FMLA. It found that Hendricks did not have an FMLA right to an equivalent position because she was unable to perform all of the essential functions of her position on return from FMLA leave.