Can my boss keep me from returning to work after surgery?

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Can my boss keep me from returning to work after surgery?

My name is Daina and I live in Memphis, TN. I recently had surgery and took off
work. I have been cleared to go back to work with the limitation that I can not
lift, push or pull over 20 pounds. My boss is saying that he will not allow me
to return to work until I have no restrictions of any kind. I work in a
warehouse, where I load a truck twice a week with pallets of more than 100
pounds. My main work however is fixing and relabeling of items that we sell. I
can still do my job, but I will require some help due to this restriction. Can
he keep me from returning to work?

Asked on February 10, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, Tennessee

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

Based on what you write, your employer most likely can keep you from returning. You indicate that twice a week you have to load a truck with 100 lb+ pallets, but you cannot lift more than 20 lbs. Even if lifting large pallets is not the main part of your job, clearly, lifting weights is part of what you do. If you were to be allowed to work, either the employer would have to have somone else do a signficant (twice per week is significant) part of your job for you, which is potentially a considerable cost or inconvenience or disruption for them; and/or there'd a considerable chance that you would at some point try to lift or have to lift more than you safely could and reinjure yourself at work, or possibly cause damage to inventory or equipment or injure another person if you dropped a weight on a foot, etc. Your employer is not required to expose itself to those potential liabilities, or to go to great lengths to have others do part of your job; there are simply some jobs you can't do with lifting restrictions, and warehouse jobs are some of them.


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