Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
Many people think of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as something that only protects individuals with long-term disabilities, but it can also protect injured workers who need temporary accommodations while they recover from a work-related injury or condition. While the ADA does not apply to every employer, it does provide some important protections for injured workers whose employers are covered by it.
If you are injured on the job and your injury limits what you can do physically without totally disabling you, your employer is required to make reasonable accommodations, so long as those accommodations do not require the employer to change essential functions of the job or create an undue hardship. For example, if a production line worker suffers a knee injury but can still perform the essential functions of his job by simply being provided a stool to sit on while working, the employer is obliged to make this simple and affordable accommodation. On the other hand, if the job requires rapid assembly of small parts and the worker has carpal tunnel syndrome that restricts him from repetitive gripping, grasping, manipulating, etc., it may be more difficult to find an accommodation that allows the worker to perform the essential functions of the job. In that case, the worker should go on leave and receive worker’s compensation benefits (assuming the carpal tunnel syndrome was caused by work).
Even in the second scenario above, the worker’s job might still be protected by the ADA. Sometimes, the only reasonable accommodation is to grant the worker leave to recover from his or her injury/condition. In our carpal tunnel example, the worker may need a few months of leave to have carpal tunnel release surgery (which has a high success rate) before recovering and returning to work. Under the ADA, granting this leave could be considered a reasonable accommodation, so long as it does not create undue hardship on the employer. Furthermore, employers are not allowed to apply maximum leave policies without considering exceptions for disabled employees under the ADA. For example, if an employer has a rule that says no employee will be granted more than six months of leave for a medical condition, the employer still must consider whether it can modify its policy and grant additional leave to a disabled employee as a reasonable accommodation.
If you have concerns as to whether your employer is providing adequate accommodations following a work injury, call the experts at Ryan Podein Postema & Westgate for a