So I guess I'll be out of a job, huh?
July 14, 2011 12:24 PM   Subscribe

Can I ask (demand?) work give me a promotion/transfer?

I have recently (well, within the last two odd months, but these things don't heal quickly) sustained a repetitive strain injury in which all signs point towards work duties as the cause. We are pursuing worker's compensation and all the appropriate channels.

The best thing to do when it comes to work-caused repetitive strain is to, well, stop doing the task that caused it to happen. Sadly, this is not feasible--because the task is inherent to the job. (For example, you wouldn't tell a receptionist to stop answering phones or type on the computer, because that's part of their job. If you can't do that for whatever reason, you are probably not going to be suitable for that job.) Modifying workstations will have limited to no success, in my opinion, due to certain rules and hardware limitations. (This statement was echoed by the worker's compensation person who did a site visit, and he said a couple of times "Huh. I don't really know what I can suggest to modify this.") A lateral transfer to another department will not be very useful, because the majority of the workplace is based upon jobs doing certain repetitive tasks. May not be the exact same repetitive task that gave me my specific injury, but I have another coworker in another team/department who also currently have a repetitive strain injury from her job, so a lateral transfer won't help.

The exceptions to the physical jobs are management and a very small handful (two small groups) of more computer-y positions, all of which are coveted positions. We have people working here for years and can't get promoted to either group A or B and stop doing the more physical labour. My coworker thinks that given the nature of the job (and similar nature for a lateral transfer to another department), I should have grounds to ask for a transfer into Coveted Position A or B. Is this true? If so, how can I ask for it? (I'm more of the opinion that they're probably going to lay me off, maybe with a severance package, but.)

If it is relevant, I am in BC, Canada.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You can ask, but it's in your best interest to frame the question in terms of why it's good for the company, not what's good for you.

Fail: I must be given this coveted position to avoid further repetitive stress injury.

Succeed: I can serve the company better in this faculty because I demonstrate skill X, Y and Z and have shown it with project A, B, and C. It will bring benefits U,V, and W to the organization to use me in this manner.

U,V, or W could even be "lessened risk of expensive worker's comp bills" but work hard to phrase it without sounding like a threat.
posted by oblio_one at 12:54 PM on July 14, 2011

You can ask, but it's in your best interest to frame the question in terms of why it's good for the company, not what's good for you.

I second this. Further, If you've got the skills to do a different job, you should also start looking for that different job elsewhere. There's no reason not to hedge your bets.
posted by mhoye at 12:56 PM on July 14, 2011

I am an employment attorney, but not a Canadian employment attorney, and not your attorney. What you're talking about in the US would be called an issue of "reasonable accommodation." In the US, the question would be whether your employer is obligated to provide you with this accommodation or whether your injury is a disability which cannot be accommodated in a manner that would allow you to perform the essential functions of your position. I have no idea what Canadian law on the subject is and suggest strongly that you consult an employment lawyer licensed in your jurisdiction.
posted by wuzandfuzz at 1:10 PM on July 14, 2011

I also don't know Canadian law, IANAL, and so on, but under US labor law, companies generally can not be forced to transfer a person. As I understand it, if you are, say, illegally laid off (retaliation for reporting harassement, etc), a company could be forced to rehire you but they can not be legally forced to move you to another position or another group.
posted by lyra4 at 3:22 PM on July 14, 2011

IANAL, I am Canadian, I've been the boss making accommodations for a couple of direct reports with disabilities over the years, but never in a situation exactly like yours, and in Ontario not BC.

My guess is that you're probably not legally entitled to one of the jobs you want, particularly if they would be considered promotions rather than lateral transfers. Yes, you may as well ask, as per oblio_one, but I would also agree with mhoye that you should start looking for another job outside your current organization as well. Companies often freak out when faced with workers comp and accommodation issues, and I think your gut read on the situation is probably more accurate than your colleague's.

FWIW based on what you wrote here you sound totally pragmatic and reasonable, not at all like someone who's trying to unfairly exploit the situation. Sensible employers should recognize that. But even so, if and when you start looking for new work, I'd recommend you avoid talking about the repetitive strain injury if you can. Maybe this is obvious, but really: companies are paranoid about this kind of thing, and it would be a shame for you to get tagged as a potential malingerer or wolf-cryer.

Good luck :-)
posted by Susan PG at 6:44 PM on July 14, 2011

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