What are my rights if I hurt my back on the job buy my employer hasn’t allowed me to take breaks or sit down?

UPDATED: Sep 29, 2022

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What are my rights if I hurt my back on the job buy my employer hasn’t allowed me to take breaks or sit down?

I work 7 days a week from 7 to 10 hours a day. I hurt my back at work last week and the pain has gotten severe. I sat down today and they told me if I did it again they would write me up. On my way home this evening the pain was so bad my legs were going numb and caused me to total my truck. Can I hold them accountable?

Asked on November 11, 2015 under Employment Labor Law, West Virginia


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 7 years ago | Contributor

You may have grounds for a disability-related discrimination or harassment claim: employers must make "reasonable accommodations" for employees who have medical conditions or injuries. A "reasonable accommodation" is a change in how work is done which is not too expensive or disruptive to the employer, but which lets the employee do the job. If your job can be done while seated without imposing some unreasonable "cost" on your employer (e.g. without reducing productivity unreasonably, leaving parts of the job undone, or alienating customers), then your employer should let you sit, and a failure to do so can expose them to liability. If you feel that they could have let you do your job while seated, contact the federal EEOC or your state's equal/civil rights agency about filing a complaint, or speak with an employment law attorney about possibly bringing a lawsuit.
(Note that if you have a job that could not be done while seated--for example, if you are security guard who must walk to patrol--then the employer may legally tell you that you cannot sit.)

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