Can a typical “desk job” require that I do hard physical labor against doctor’s orders?

UPDATED: Feb 27, 2012

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Can a typical “desk job” require that I do hard physical labor against doctor’s orders?

I work for a nonprofit (15 employees). My position is one that is a “desk job” – marketing, tech support, etc. Twice a year we have 3-5 day fundraisers that are veryphysically demanding. Lots of standing, walking, lifting, etc. I have 2 herniated discs, 3 more with disc degerstions and mild scoliosis. I am a pain management patient. I get spinal injections every 3-6 months. My boss has force me to work at this event, despite explicit doctor’s orders saying that such activities are prohibited and could lead to further injury. The shift is 8-12 hours = painful beyond measure.

Asked on February 27, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, Alaska


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

What you describe may be illegal. The law requires employers to make "reasonable accomodations" for employees with disabilities. A reasonable accomodation is one that is not too expensive or disruptive for an employer. If your condition would qualify as a disability, then it would seem a reasonable accomodation to either let you miss the fundraisers (possibly at a cost of not being paid for those days), which are not the core of your job anyway, or else do something else  for those 6 - 10 days (for example, does somone have to stay at the office, man the phones, catch up on paperwork, etc.?).

Probably the most important issue is whethere your condition would qualify as a disability. Since there is no hard and fast answer, the best way to answer that question would be to consult with experienced employment law counsel.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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