Talking to Your Employer about Work-Restricting Injuries


“My doctor says I have to cut back on lifting, but my job demands it and I can’t afford to lose my job.  How should I talk to my employer about this?” – Ryan from Flagstaff, AZ


There are a couple of things you need to consider before approaching your employer about this issue.  First, is your doctor telling you this is a short-term issue and your back will heal, or is it a long-term issue that will impair your lifting ability permanently?


Make sure you have a doctor’s note with you when approaching your supervisor that states exactly how many pounds you can lift, if any.  If you are a great employee and the back will heal, the employer is more likely to accommodate your needs so you have time to heal.  Make sure the doctor’s note is specific about what you can and can’t do, and specifies how long the limitations are expected to last.

Long-Term or Permanent Medical Condition

If lifting is an essential part of your job and your employer is either not large enough to move you into a position that does not require lifting, or you don’t qualify for the other non-lifting position(s), your employer should be considering if a reasonable accommodation will make the difference in your ability to perform your job.

Here are some questions your employer is going to consider once you have submitted the doctor’s note with your medical limitations specified:

  1. What job responsibilities will be limited by the employee’s limitations?
  2. How do these limitations affect the employee’s job performance?
  3. What specific job tasks are problematic as a result of these limitations?
  4. What accommodations are available to reduce or eliminate these problems?

If the lifting issue is going to be permanent, I strongly urge you to consider pursuing training in another type of work.  Check with your employer to see if there are any other open positions that don’t require lifting.  If not, your local community college has many short-term training options you can take that will give you the skills for another type of job that does not require lifting.  They also have counselors that can help you choose a training that fits your interests.  Many of the trainings are offered in non-traditional hours so you can complete the training while still employed.  Your local Goodwill® can then help you find a job in your new field.