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Unable to physically perform new job assignment Maryland

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  • Unable to physically perform new job assignment Maryland


    I'm in NM, my mother-in-law is in Maryland. She's a janitor with a school district and was recently reassigned to a new school where she is required to use a large electric buffer or carpet cleaner or something like that. She's been with them for multiple years and has never been required to use this type of equipment.

    She's relatively unsophisticated and is convinced she has to quit, which would put her and the rest of the family in dire straights. She is a few years out from retirement.

    Things are happening pretty fast...the new assignment was the week before last, and immediately she started having physical problems related to the machine...she's in her 60's. Upper extremity and neck pain, and systemic fatigue and malaise, not to mention the stress of these developments. She's been an exemplary employee, and is literally falling apart. She was in the ER yesterday with chest pain. Her daughter and I are both NP's, and we understood it was the anxiety that drove her there.

    I've done a rudimentary search so her daughter and I can help from here, but I'm not finding anything concrete regarding information, resources, or what here rights are so she can better direct her next steps.

    Clearly she needs at least a few days off Rx'd by her PCP, with probable escalation to an ortho MD to assess the medical situation - the medical part I got. But legally, what are her rights? She's never been required to operate this type of machinery, she's been there for years, and as someone generally distrustful of organizations, I can see that they might find someone nearing retirement as someone that would be attractive to cut from the workforce.

    Either way, it ain't right that there making an older woman operate large equipment at this point in her career, and I would greatly appreciate anyone's (informed, please! I need tangible info, "discussion" doesn't move us forward) opinion regarding:
    -her locations/citations would be of great help,
    -possible contacts for her (and us),
    -low cost or free resources to consult/advocate
    ...and of course this is for Maryland (Baltimore)

    Feel free to email me at (deleted)

    Thanks for 'paying it forward', rest assured we will do the same when opportunities arise.

    Last edited by Betty3; 03-10-2013, 09:24 PM.

  • #2
    This is an area where I actually have a great deal of expertise. Unfortunately, your mother has very little recourse. Being required and able to operate the machinery would be an essential function of the job and it would actually be illegal or bordering on illegal, to treat her differently than her coworkers based on her age or undiagnosed, suspected medical condition. Even under ADA and its amendments, her employer does not have to exempt her from those duties even if she is diagnosed with a qualifying disability which would render her unable to operate the equipment. I have used all of those machines before and with the exception of the buffer, they are not difficult to operate. The buffer requires a motion which can be problematic only if you have certain medical conditions. It is actually pretty rare for someone to be medically unable to operate any of the equipment. Also, most of the equipment is not used on a daily basis. It can not be or there would be nothing left of the flooring. No school scrubs the carpets daily or burnishes the floors daily. Typically just a mop/ vacuum is used on a daily basis and most of the heavy duty cleaning is left for during the summer when the building isn't at full capacity.

    It does sound like your mother needs a full medical work up, but general malaise and anxiety would not be caused by using a machine at work. If she is found to have a medical condition which renders her unable to perform the essential duties and functions of her job, and I strongly suggest taking a copy of her job description to the doctor's appointment, then disability retirement might be an option for her. If she works for a school district and has been with them as a benefited employee for at least 5 years, she is eligible to apply. She doesn't have to be totally disabled, just medically unable to continue performing the job for which she was hired. If she is over 62 and has been with them at least 5 years she is eligible for service retirement and her medical condition becomes irrelevant. Every system has a Retirement Coordinator, and the larger ones have more than one. She can work elsewhere or even in a different capacity in a school system so quitting outright would not be a very good plan. You can find more information on this here

    As for needing time off work for a medical condition, she should qualify for leave under the Family Medical Leave Act. If she does not have sick leave available, it may be unpaid but it allows her to take off up to 12 weeks a year for a serious health condition. She should also inquire about extended leave banks and any additional sick leave available under her CBA or through her union.
    I post with the full knowledge and support of my employer, though the opinions rendered are my own and not necessarily representative of their position. In other words, I'm a free agent.


    • #3
      OP - I removed your e-mail address for your protection due to spammers/trolls that frequent these types of forums.
      Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. Leo Buscaglia

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