Is my employer/supervisor liable for me suffering heart attack due to my having to perform strenuous work not a regular part of my job?

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Is my employer/supervisor liable for me suffering heart attack due to my having to perform strenuous work not a regular part of my job?

I am a retail manager. My new supervisor directed me to empty lower level stockroom of product. For over 7 years this space has been used the same way. No explanation given as to why even though I asked numerous times. A completion date was established. If not 100% empty, I would receive a performance document. I’ve been in retail for 30 years without ever receiving one. On 04/11 our elevator was closed due to mechanical and safety issues. On 04/13, my supervisor communicated that the 04/18 deadline was still the goal. Pulling pallets of merchandise from the basement, outside, up a long hill, around building and in through the front door with another associate, I experienced a heart attack. Is the company/individual liable?

Asked on May 28, 2019 under Employment Labor Law, Connecticut

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 2 years ago | Contributor

No, they are not liable.
1) They did not cause your heart attack--people strenuosly exert themselves all the time without having heart attacks. The attack was due to you having some pre-existing heart condition or predisposition. Without some condition or predisposition, there is no heart attack. Since there was an intervening medical cause, they are not liable.
2) Someone is only liable for the reasonably foreseeable, or logical predictable, consequences. Your heart attack was not resasonable foreseeable--as stated, people do strenuous work all the time without heart attacks. Therefore, for this reason, too, they are not liable.
3) Your job is whatever they tell you it is--that's part of "employment at will." So whether this was part of your "regular" duties or not is irrelevant; that has no bearing on their abilty to require this. And under employment at will, if you didn't want to do this, your right is to quit--they can't force you to do something which you might have thought was unfair, inappropriate, or unwise, since you can walk away from the job. Having decided to keep your job and do this, you are held liable for the consequences of your voluntary choice.


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