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Accomodations for heavy lifting -- interview question
July 9, 2014 6:57 AM   Subscribe

I have an interview next week. One requirement is to be able to life 40 pound files, but I have a lifting restriction.

Several years ago, after I was injured at work, my doctor in her wisdom ordered a lifting restriction for me (no more than 25 pounds, ever), which I adhere to religiously, knowing how it felt after I accidently lifted more -- not to mention the long drawn-out agony and recovery of the initial injury.

I was studying the job description, I should be able to just break these files into two piles and take one pile at a time. I understand that you can ask for accommodations after the job is offered to you, but what do I say when/if they ask me about it in the actual interview? (It is the same company where I was injured, and I ended up lawyering up because work comp was so nasty. Big surprise there.)

Question is: How to handle question about lifting during interview? (Any tidbits about aceing the interview gratefully accepted as well. I've been on line for two days googling interview answers and so forth.)

Thanks all.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (12 answers total)
 
If it's a job requirement and you can't meet it, I would be honest about that in the interview. The job may not be a good fit for you, and given that you have had conflict with this same company about the same issue in the past, it could really cause a lot of drama down the road if you don't acknowledge this up front and then get hurt again. You can mention your idea of splitting up the files if it comes up, but I would be prepared to write this one off.

A lot of companies in the last few years are starting to have potential employees take a physical test proving they can meet the requirements of the job, in order to protect both employee and employer from potential injuries and/or lawsuits. Mine does.
posted by something something at 7:02 AM on July 9 [5 favorites]


I am confused. You are interviewing at a firm that you previously got injured at because you lifted too much and you also got into a legal dispute with them? And now, you are interviewing for a job that specifically requires that you lift more than your doctor told you to and more than your practical experience has shown to be healthy? You want to ace this interview?

If this is the only job you can find after an exhaustive search, I would simply say that you are capable of getting the job done without specifically mentioning how or that you can or cannot lift 40 lb files.
posted by 724A at 7:04 AM on July 9 [6 favorites]


Tell the truth during the interview. If they don't bring it up, you should, with your suggestions for handling the problem. Otherwise, you're in for trouble down the line. Not to mention, it's better to be truthful for your own self-respect.
posted by fivesavagepalms at 7:08 AM on July 9


I would be up-front about this and tell them what you told us here, that you cannot lift more than 25lbs but that"I should be able to just break these files into two piles and take one pile at a time". If that works for them, it should be no problem. Otherwise, it sounds like this might not be the right job for you. How much cumulative lifting will there be? Even if you split it up, if you are lifting 160 lbs in 25lb increments every day, will that be a problem for you?

Also, if it is an essential job requirement, they aren't required to make accommodations. Given your history with this company, I think it's in your best interest to be honest at the outset and get as much information as you can about whether it's really a good fit.
posted by epanalepsis at 7:50 AM on July 9 [3 favorites]


If you can't lift more than 25 pounds, you are not qualified for this job. Employers can have whatever requirements they want; if you can't meet them when you apply, you are not qualified for the position.

If later you ask for an accommodation, you might get fired (or worse - check any applications or contracts signed so far) for lying during the application process.

Since you went through workers' compensation for the previous injury, they will already know about this lifting restriction. When they go to put new information about you into the computer, this issue will pop up instantly. It may already have. Every time a workers' compensation doctor sees you or talks to you, a letter goes directly to the insurance adjustor detailing that. (I transcribe roughly 5-10 of these per day for an orthopedic clinic). Information about lifting restrictions, etc., is then relayed to the employer.

If you are otherwise a perfect candidate, I would be upfront about this and say you can do everything except lift more than 25 pounds; they may hire you anyway. But do not lie.
posted by AllieTessKipp at 7:52 AM on July 9 [2 favorites]


My employer has this requirement on every job description period. I work at a desk and in people's homes. I rarely lifT anything bigger than a file and other paperwork.
IT isn't such a good idea to work for a company that you have had a lawsuit for. You know that they won't support you if something bad happens. You also may have conflicts with HR.
posted by AlexiaSky at 8:11 AM on July 9


Employers can have whatever requirements they want

Well, no, that isn't true (in the United States, which is likely the case for the OP). Employers can have requirements that are reasonably related to the job at hand. For instance, it is not reasonable to require an office worker to be able to lift 100 pounds (which would mask discrimination against women, for instance). The requirement in the OP's post may or may not be reasonable for the job. Even if it is, then the OP can still request an accommodation, the employer is just not obligated to provide it under the ADA. It's common to put some lifting requirement on every job any employer puts just as rote cut/paste text - that doesn't mean it's necessarily applicable to the job.
posted by saeculorum at 8:39 AM on July 9


The employer does not have to accomodate you by letting you skip out on a requirement. Accomdations are more about alterations that enable you to perform the required tasks of the job.

You should try to find another job. You can't really apply to be a roofer then get an accomodation to stay on the ground.
posted by WeekendJen at 9:54 AM on July 9


My employer has this requirement on every job description period. I work at a desk and in people's homes. I rarely lifT anything bigger than a file and other paperwork.

Same here. Literally *every* job description in the unit where I work has this requirement. The university puts it in there to cover their asses. They know it's not a day-to-day reality for most people.

I have a touchy back, and there are times when I can't lift a box full of files. I just ask a coworker if they can help, and they always do, and it's not an issue.

Every job I've had for a university or state agency has had this requirement written in. And it has never, ever come up in a job interview. Assuming you're applying for an office job, since you mention files, I'd bet good money with 99.5% certainty that it won't come up in the interview.

If/when you're hired, tell HR (not your boss -- HR) that your back has some limitations, but that you know how to find workarounds -- like breaking the files down into smaller loads, like you mentioned. They'll appreciate your honesty, your resourcefulness, your willingness to do your job, and the fact that you didn't request an accommodation.

Really, really don't stress about that one little thing in the job description. When preparing for the interview, focus on the things you'll be required to do on a daily basis -- tell them how you'll do those things well, rather than how you won't be able to do other things.
posted by mudpuppie at 10:14 AM on July 9


If you can't lift more than 25 pounds, you are not qualified for this job.

Very funny.

This is boilerplate bullshit. Unless you're working in a warehouse or a truly physical job, not being able to lift forty pounds shouldn't be a problem. This is an office job, right?

Don't bring it up in the interview. I'd be shocked if it came up.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 11:28 AM on July 9 [2 favorites]


If the job isn't physical labor, the 40lbs is just boilerplate. Don't mention it and get some help the one time in a decade you actually have to lift 40 lbs all at once.
posted by michaelh at 12:32 PM on July 9


(It is the same company where I was injured, and I ended up lawyering up because work comp was so nasty. Big surprise there.)

Find a different employer.
posted by rr at 8:55 PM on July 9 [3 favorites]


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