Can you be terminated based on not being able to meet a lifting requirement of the employer?
In the case of Complainant v. Donahoe, 2013 WL 8338375 (E.E.O.C. Dec. 23, 2013) An employee bid for, and was ultimately denied, a job as a Sales, Services, and Distribution Associate at a Postal Service facility because she had a permanent 10-pound lifting restriction resulting from a shoulder injury. The Postal Service claimed that one of the job’s essential functions was the ability to lift up to 70 pounds. On appeal, the EEOC determined that the 70-pound lifting requirement was not an essential function, as both the employee and the agency maintained, but a qualification standard designed to measure whether individuals can perform the job’s essential functions. Because the evidence showed that lifting 70-pound packages was not an essential function of the Sales, Services, and Distribution Associate position at the facility where the employee wanted to work, but that employees in that position were, at most, required to lift packages of up to 30 pounds, the qualification standard was not job-related and consistent with business necessity.
In El Paso, Texas I find many employees who have injuries (at work or otherwise) who are not allowed to return to work because of a lifting requirement of the company. If the lifting requirement is truly not job-related then an employee cannot be discriminated based upon an arbitrary standard lifting requirement. I find often in El Paso, Texas that many employers have lifting requirements in their job descriptions that are really not related to the actual job the worker is doing. They have these job descriptions in part so that they can terminate employees who have lifting limitations. After speaking with the employees I find that while the company may have a 50 lb lifting requirement, in reality the employee never or rarely lifts that much weight and when they do they actually obtain help to lift this much weight. I have actually seen cases where, when the employee was hired she could not meet the lifting requirement (70 pounds) but after she was injured and returned to work the employer attempted to make her prove she could now lift that weight. This is clearly an example where a lifting requirement in a job description will not justify the termination of an employee.