Does myemployer have to find work for me after surgery?

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Does myemployer have to find work for me after surgery?

I work in a warehouse and just had hernia surgery. My doctor has now released me with lifting restrictions. They’ve told me they don’t need me back until I’m fully healed, and it will be unpaid time under FMLA. Do they have to accommodate my “disability” if I’m willing to work? Or do I have to take this time unpaid? Also, I’ve been with this employer for 11 years, but just got a full time position and I don’t get short term disability for about 2 more weeks. Would this qualify under short term disability? Or would it be excluded since the surgery was before the effective date?

Asked on February 14, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, Iowa

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Even if this condition (your post-surgery recovery) qualified as a "disability" for purposes of anti-discrimination law--and note, it may not: generally a "disability" for this purpose is more than a period of convalesence or recovery, but rather is a condition affecting your ability to do basic life functions which is not readily remedied or controlled by medicine--an employer's only obligation to provide a "reasonable accomodation." A reasonable accomodation is a change in duties or the provision of some assistive equipment or technology which is not too expensive or disruptive. You say that you work in a warehouse--if you simply can't do the job you were hired for while recovering, then even if the recovery were deemed a disability, the employer would not have to find  or make up a different job for you; doing so goes beyond what is generally considered a reasonable accomodation. Therefore, from what you write, it is likely that the employer does not need to find work for you.

As for disability: since the surgery was before the effective date, you most likely do not qualify for disability; however, you may wish to try applying for it and see what happens. As long as you are truthful in your application, it should be that the worst that happens is that you are denied.


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