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The short answer is "maybe." It depends on whether the medical condition that is preventing you from lifting heavy objects would qualify as a "disability" pursuant to the Americans With Disabilities Act.
You are protected from discrimination on the basis of your medical condition only if it is a qualifying ailment under the Act. The determination of what constitutes a qualifying disability pursuant to the ADA is a complex issue, but in general, in order to have a “disability,” you must have a mental or physical condition that “significantly impairs a major life activity.”
According to the most recent Supreme Court decision, this analysis requires the courts to review whether the person is able to perform the tasks of daily living (washing, brushing teeth, fixing meals, housecleaning, etc.), and decide if the person is significantly more impaired in those tasks than other persons in the population who are not “disabled.” It also requires the courts to consider the person’s abilities with corrective devices, such as prostheses and medication, but may consider side effects that result from medication. For more information on what constitutes a qualifying disability, visit this link: http://www.ada.gov/qandaeng.htm
If a person is “disabled” in accordance with the ADA's definition, is having difficulty performing his/her job, and the employer knows that the reason for the difficulty is the employee’s disability, then the employer may have a duty to reasonably accommodate the employee, as long as it will not pose an undue burden on the employer to do so. In determining whether a reasonable accommodation is available, and would actually work in helping the employee do his/her job, both the employer and employee had required to talk to each other and consider each other’s ideas. An employee is not entitled to the accommodation he/she wants – he/she is only entitled to an accommodation that works.
Thus, if your condition qualified as a "disability," and if it is reasonable and works for your employer to "accommodate" your disability by changing your job duties so that you didn't have to do heavy lifting, your employer would be legally obligated to change your duties. However, your employer would typically not be obligated to change your duties under any other circumstances.
It is worth mentioning that, even if your condition does not qualify as a "disability" pursuant to the ADA, you may still be eligible to take a protected leave of absence pursuant to the Family Medical Leave Act so that you can fully recover.
Although this leave would be unpaid, your employer would be prohibited from terminating you as a consequence of your absence while on such leave and would have to return you to a substantially similar position when you came back.
In order to be “eligible” for FMLA leave, the employee must have worked for the employer for at least one year, and worked roughly 30 hours per week (on average) during that year. All public agencies are subject to the FMLA.
So to summarize, an employer would only be "discriminating" against you in this instance if your condition qualified as a "disability" pursuant to the ADA. If you have a disability, your employer must provide reasonable accommodations. You may, however, be eligible to take FMLA protected leave to recover from your condition that prevents you from doing heavy listing regardless of whether you have ADA rights. This would be unpaid time off (unless you used vacation or sick days), but your employer would be barred from terminating you as a consequence of you taking the leave of absence.
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