What are my options if I can not work due to muscle and back pain

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What are my options if I can not work due to muscle and back pain

I was in a office position basically dispatching trucks. One day the site manager brought me into the office and said I had done some things wrong and I could no longer work in that department. I had never had any disciplinary action of any kind in the past. I was asked to show up in another department and the job consists of walking around a cement floor all day cleaning. Since the beginning of the job I have severe muscle and back pain every day. I have severe stiffness throughout my body if I do not constantly move. I have to take pain killers just to work a few hours until I can’t stand the pain any more. This has resulted in only being able to work less than half my hours and may result in my having to stop working. Due I have any legal recourses?

Asked on June 30, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, North Dakota

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

As a general matter--
1) An employer can switch, reassign, change, etc. your job at will, if there is no written employment contract guarantying you a specific position or duties; and
2) If you can't or won't do your job, you can be terminated--the employer does not need to give you a different job or duties instead. (They may have to make certain reasonable--i.e. not too expensive or disruptive--accommodations to facilitate you doing the job if you have a medical condition, but you still must be able to do that job and all its duties/responsibilities.)
So, generally, you would not have any legal recourse. HOWEVER, an employer may not discriminate against or harass an employee who is over 40. You write that you were given a physically punishing job despite not having ever been disciplined, and that you are 65; under those circumstances, it is certainly plausible that this is age-related employment discrimination or harassment--trying to force the older worker out by giving him a physically punishing job. It would be worthwhile for you to contact the federal EEOC or your state's equal/civil rights agency to discuss filing a complaint, and/or speak with an employment law attorney about possibly filng a lawsuit. Good luck. 


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