Hendricks, a former employee of Compass Group, USA, Inc. (“Compass”), sought to recover the wage differential to which she claimed entitlement under the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) and a collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”). Hendricks v. Compass Group, USA, Inc., No. 06-3637 (7th Cir., Aug. 6, 2007).
Hendricks worked as a utility driver earning $12.23 per hour. In June 2003, Hendricks suffered a rotator cuff injury on the job and applied for workers’ compensation benefits. Hendricks did not request FMLA leave but instead, she chose to take light duty under her workers’ compensation program. While on light duty, Hendricks performed office work at a rate of $9.00 per hour for twenty-five (25) hours per week. One month after Hendricks’ injury, she had surgery on her shoulder and came back to work after three (3) days to return to light-duty work. Thereafter, Hendricks worked in the same light duty capacity until the end of her employment with Compass in March of 2004.
Hendricks sued Compass seeking recovery of the $3.23 per hour pay differential between her wages as a utility driver and her wages while on light duty pursuant allegedly to the FMLA and the CBA.
In upholding the lower court’s decision dismissing Hendricks’ claim, the Court emphasized that the requirement under the FMLA for restoring an employee to the same or equivalent position and pay rate is conditioned upon the premise that the employee is physically able to perform the functions and duties of the previous position. Further, the Court indicated the fact that the FMLA guarantees only unpaid leave up to twelve (12) weeks if an employee satisfies certain requirements under the law but does not guarantee a certain pay rate while the employee is on leave and decides, on her own, to take light duty. Hendricks also sought to recover wages under the CBA that provides, “Employees who work on a temporary basis in a lower paid classification shall retain their regulate rate”. In response, the Court held that Hendricks cannot recover her claim under the CBA because she did not establish that light duty is a classification under the CBA or that she was employed in light duty on a temporary basis. Therefore, the Court affirmed the lower court’s decision dismissing Hendricks’ wage claim.