When was the last time you reviewed the “minimum lifting requirements” in your job descriptions? In several cases this year, courts have looked skeptically at job requirements listed in an employer’s job description. Specifically, judges have not been willing to take the employer’s word for it that lifting, say 50 pounds, is an actual requirement of the job. These inquiries come when an employer defends its decision to not hire someone on the basis of a disability or when they refuse an accommodation under the ADA.
Not only will the lifting restriction not defend you in a failure to accommodate claim, unreasonably high lifting requirements may also open you up to liability for gender discrimination. The EEOC regularly warns that minimum lifting restrictions must be “consistent with business necessity” to pass muster under Title VII.
When employers advertise that a potential candidate must be able to perform herculean feats of strength on a daily basis, regular people, more likely women and little drummer boys, will not even bother applying. If those companies don’t actually need all that muscle, they have a discrimination problem. More importantly, they cut themselves off from a huge talent pool.
This certainly does not mean you should abandon all minimum lifting requirements. Instead, you should ensure that those lifting requirements are still based in reality. How many times a year, really, will an employee actually need to lift 50 pounds? Have you recently purchased some equipment which makes a lifting requirement irrelevant? If the restrictions no longer matter, get rid of them, or at least lower them to something based in reality.