She Says She Can't Lift. Can We Terminate?

A Kantola Learning Minute

How far does a reasonable accommodation need to go before you can justify a termination? An employer asks about an employee who was hired for a job that included lifting but has a doctor's note saying she can no longer perform that function as needed. What's a reasonable accommodation in this case, and what are grounds for termination? Workplace trainer Linda Garrett, JD, explains in this Kantola Learning Minute.

Hi, my name is Linda Garrett.

We had a question from an employer who hired someone into their purchasing and supplies department where an essential job element was the ability to lift between 40 and 60 pounds because some of their packages did fall into that weight range. About three weeks after she was hired, she came in with a doctor's note saying that lifting over 25 pounds would cause injury to her back, and that she needed a reasonable accommodation.

Well, they tried. They did make an accommodation for her by asking her coworkers to lift the heavier boxes when they came in so she wouldn't have to do it.
The employer is now being told, however, that she refuses to lift any boxes if they look they're over 5 or 10 pounds, and she's relying on her coworkers to do all of the lifting for her. They are naturally upset, and they want her fired.
The employer is concerned that they may be violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and wants to know what to do.

Well, here's the thing: They did try to accommodate her when she first came in with a doctor's note. They were able to offload some of her work to her coworkers, but, at this point, it sounds to me like her request for accommodation has gone from reasonable to unreasonable. It's simply not reasonable to ask other people to do her job for her. And, if she's not able to lift anything, she's not able to do the job.

Thanks for joining us.

Watch More Learning Minutes