I sit 8 hours a day 5 days a week at a call center. My work desk seems low and I find I am hunched over all day long, and it is causing neck and back pain. The desks can be raised to different levels. Many desks are raised already as when new employees start they can be seated at the already raised desk.

My supervisor stated I needed a doctors note - I provided the doctors note to HR, and they are requiring me to fill out an ADA form with my Dr. showing I have a disability that needs modifications. I am not disabled.

I have researched this and found that OSHA recommends ergonomic desks for many reasons but I haven't found anything or any laws stating a non-disabled person needs to be classified as disabled for a workplace (desk) modification.

My employer is standing firm on this. I believe they are confusing OSHA recommendations with ADA regulations. As I mentioned there are many desks that are different heights and a variety of people (non-disabled) are using them. Any suggestions? Does anyone know if ADA is necessary?


Editing extra detail from a misplaced answer:

I work at a large call center and the "desks" are actually large, freestanding modern table-like workstation and are grouped in a semi-circle of 3 workstations which we call Pods.

Each large desk/workstation has the ability to be raised to different levels. As I am tall, the standard height is a bit too low for me to work comfortably 8 hrs a day sitting down. The desks are easily raised to the next level which a comfortable level for me. There is some type of brackets attached to the partitioned wall in front of each workstation where levels are easily raised.

The desks can only be raised by the maintenance dept. (perhaps a liability issue if not). With 70 employees in my area, with employees coming and going, the desks have been adjusted higher or lower throughout the years. I happened to be assigned to a different area where the desk level had been increased previously and it was very comfortable and caused no discomfort as I didn't need to be hunched over at the computer screen all day.

When requesting to have my new workstation raised, my direct manager said I needed a Dr. note; I presented that to HR and I was advised I needed to fill out the ADA form indicating I had a disability necessitating the adjustment. I explained to HR that I was not disabled and would not have my physician classify me as disabled (which of course would stay in my personnel file, and quite possibly this info would follow me with my medical history).

I explained that many other workstations have been raised or lowered throughout my employment there and I want the same consideration given to me as had the other employees (who are not disabled). Some desks are already raised, as I mentioned, sort of "grandfathered in" when had been used by other employees assigned to that desk. A workstation would not be lowered to a standard height each time an employee left or moved to a different dept.

Some managers, will bypass the silly rules of HR and adjust the desk themselves for their staff, or higher management would just call the maintenance dept and request it themselves. So it appears there really is not any type of rules or regulations that are enforced in each dept. manager or HR for that matter. I provided my Dr. note to HR going through the protocol I was told by my manager, and HR adamantly stated I needed to be disabled and this would be an ADA modification.

I invited them to come onto the floor to see the other elevated desks and indicated I wanted the same comfortable, ergonomic work area to avoid any back pain etc that my Dr. note stated. They declined and stated that they are not aware of any elevated workstations without an ADA form on file and it would be impossible for them to track every form to determine who is entitled and who is not.

HR was clearly flustered with my persistence and mentioned they are following a federal law that mandates desks need to be a certain height unless one is disabled. I thought that was preposterous. I believe he was confusing that with OSHA guidelines on how to avoid workplace stress and injury on the job. I asked him to provide the information on that "law", he said he didn't have it readily available and would consult with "the company attorney" on that regulations.

Well, 2 weeks passed and I received an email once again stating only... "you will need to provide the ADA form". I feel that I am being bounced back and forth getting no solid answer on any type of law. I merely request to raise the level of my workstation, with the same consideration as other employees. Mind you, several new employees have recently started and were assigned to some of the higher workstations... and they are not disabled in any way.

I'm getting frustrated with the lack of "policy" and enforcement of a policy which is nonexistent. Does anyone know of a federal law mandating desk height? I have searched and found nothing with the exception of ADA rules. I am about to consult with an attorney to help answer my questions or what my remedies are.

  • 2
    Mind including your location? If you say OSHA I assume it's some State on the US. Also, why can't you raise your own desk?
    – DarkCygnus
    Commented May 1, 2018 at 3:14
  • 2
    Why is it necessary to involve management for adjusting your desk? Can't you do that yourself (possibly with help from one or two colleagues)?
    – user29390
    Commented May 1, 2018 at 7:56
  • 1
    Since you mention ADA and OSHA I'm assuming you're in the US. If that's not correct, please edit to clarify (and remove the united-states tag if appropriate). Thanks. Commented May 2, 2018 at 2:10
  • 2
    "The desks can be raised to different levels. " so why don't you just do it? Why even ask?
    – komodosp
    Commented May 2, 2018 at 8:23
  • 3
    Tell them it is causing you injury and you'll need to put in a workmans comp claim if something doesn't change. That'll cost them a lot more than raising your desk will.
    – Kat
    Commented May 2, 2018 at 22:38

9 Answers 9


OSHA recommendations are not generally binding on the company. So I don't think that will provide any leverage against a rigid company.

You don't need to be disabled to make the request. However, in that case, they are also not obligated to do what you ask, however reasonable the request is.

The ADA obligates them to make "reasonable accommodations" for the disabled and this would certainly seem to be reasonable. In order to keep their legal and internal processes under control, they may have decided that they want to force everyone through the ADA process.

I'm not sure there is anything else you can do besides comply with their wishes if you want the desk raised. It would seem easier to just take care of your employees in a friendly manner, but there is no obligation to do so.


Raising a desk level has to do with workplace ergonomics and is health related, but it should not require a doctor's note to happen. Probably your manager is a bit confused.

Either search your company policy on that (i.e. mine states that employees can request a desk height change at any moment via facility management), or simply get a doctor note that your desk has to be x cm high.

  • 5
    The company is requiring it because there's a cost associated with making the change and it makes the desk non-standard (and thus costing more when the occupant leaves the company or seating assignments change). The requirement for the doctor's note is to put a barrier between those who casually want something "just because" and those who have a true need for it, keeping costs contained.
    – alroc
    Commented May 1, 2018 at 15:45

Go back to your doctor, and get him to give you an examination and to write a note stating that the desks are causing you injury that might turn into a chronic, disabling condition, and that raising the desks would likely act to mitigate this.

Then take this doctor’s note, and attach it to a letter detailing your past experiences with this process, informing them that if nothing is done that they’ll be liable for worker’s compensation for your injury, and asking them to let you raise you desk because you don’t want to become disabled and they don’t want you to have to sue them for worker’s compensation once you do become disabled - which you will, if nothing is done. Then look up the contact details of the head of HR and send it to them.

At this point, they have two options: they can let you raise your desk now before you become disabled, or they can wait until the repetitive injuries give rise to a disabling condition and you sue them for worker’s compensation, and then the ADA will force them to let you raise your desk. Either way your desk is getting raised, but one of those options is a lot more painful for everyone involved.


You could try to meet in the middle with your employer on this one. There are standing desk converter kits which are available which will give you the benefit of being able to raise your desk when you need to and have it seated at all other times.

I've not heard of any medical note being required for anything like this - it's a matter of comfort at work and being comfortable at work makes you more productive - but if you show them that there are kits which are inexpensive and can accomplish what you're looking to accomplish, then perhaps they'll be more lenient.

I would respect the fact that there is a cost associated with this, and if they refuse to bend, I'd make sure that it gets noted down - who you talked to, when you talked to them, and what the decision was and why. When you decide to leave that employer - and no, it's not a matter of "if" at this point; your health is too important - you can use this reference material as part of your exit interview with HR.


If you work at a large call center staff probably come and go regularly.

If many of the desks are already raised you may be able to simply move to a desk that is already raised, either by swapping with someone who would prefer a desk like yours or by waiting for a suitable vacant desk.

By the way much of this depends on your state and local laws. For example I once worked in a jurisdiction where foot rests were banned as a trip hazard during emergency evacuation; every other place I've worked they are a standard ergo amenity.

  • Any hints on why this was downvoted would help me improve other answers.
    – arp
    Commented May 18, 2018 at 23:49

It seems that you are doing what many people who actually have disabilities do, and that's denying it.

Being "disabled" doesn't mean you can't do anything, or that with the appropriate accommodations you can't function as well as everyone else. I have a reasonably severe injury which makes certain things difficult and sometimes I have to tell my co-workers to slow down when they walk.

I haven't the slightest idea why your HR department is acting as they are, but if you are suffering the ill-effects of a "standard" height desk, you fill out the form and you request the accommodation which is required for your problems.

  • I don't see how this answer helps the OP who stated they are not disabled and do not want to be classified as disabled.
    – Shadowzee
    Commented Sep 12, 2019 at 23:53
  • Can they sit at a "standard" desk? No? There's your answer. Commented Sep 13, 2019 at 0:52

( adding my comment as an answer) I had these types of desks at a couple of contract gigs and they where FABULOUS. With the push of a button you can raise the desk up and work for an hour until your knees became stiff and then push down to lower it the rest of the day.

The only helpful info I can add that others haven't commented on is it might not be a bad idea to tell your employer that if this requires an ADA form then chances are it'll cost them a lot more money and hassle then if they just buy the damn desk now.

Also I know the guy who wrote an article called Back pain relief, office ergonomics and in absence of getting the desk it will help you and should be good for a few laughs.

Good luck.

  • Really curious who the moron is that -1'd multiple comments in multiple questions without explanation, and what their reasoning was.
    – Jim Horn
    Commented May 18, 2018 at 13:40
  • (Not the -1'er ;-) ) Seems very related article, you should include snippets/quotes from it in your answer as they seem relevant to the reasoning for a higher desk/chair. Links my change/go dead, making the last part of your answer irrelevant.
    – rkeet
    Commented Oct 5, 2018 at 6:47
  • Indeed, but I didn't want to plagarize my buddy's article, although I did invite him to comment here. If SO was smart they'd be encouraging people to write articles here.
    – Jim Horn
    Commented Oct 5, 2018 at 18:38
  • Quoting relevant bits of an article, noting the author and linking the article does not make it plagiarism though ;-)
    – rkeet
    Commented Oct 5, 2018 at 20:46

The American way (since you mention the ADA) is that the company is not obligated to do anything unless and until you have a disability. After this goes on for a while and you develop a disability, then you can request accommodations that they have to provide.

  • I think this was already covered in an answer here. Do you have something else to add or to suggest to OP how to handle this situation?
    – DarkCygnus
    Commented Sep 12, 2019 at 20:39
  • 1
    This seems more like an anti American rant than an answer.
    – Andy
    Commented Sep 12, 2019 at 21:59
  • @Andy, I'm a born and raised proud American. Just because you disagree with me and can't tolerate dissent doesn't make me anti-American. My point stands that he should wait until he has a disability before requesting accomodations.
    – dcacat
    Commented Sep 13, 2019 at 13:15
  • If that's your point then reword your answer, because it comes off more as a slam than your comment does, and apparently atu least one other person agrees.
    – Andy
    Commented Sep 13, 2019 at 23:53
  • Thanks for the clarification- now I've downvoted. Commented Sep 14, 2019 at 10:57

Healthy people need tables set to the correct height to avoid becoming unhealthy. In a year, when your doctor gives you the note, you can sue the company for damages.

Is it difficult to raise the table yourself?


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