How Your Employment Rights combine with Workers’ Compensation: The Americans’ with Disabilities Act

Aug 22, 2014 | WC & Other Laws

When people are injured on the job, there are a number of employment law issues that can come into the picture.  Often we are asked: “What are my employment rights when I am on Workers’ Compensation?  

As we have written earlier, the Workers’ Compensation Law is a State law that only covers certain losses caused by a work injury – but not all of them.  There are other laws that may also cover the situation in which injured and disabled workers find themselves.

The Americans’ with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a Federal Law that that prohibits an employer from discriminating against a disabled employee who can satisfactorily perform his or her job.  The ADA also prohibits employers from asking job applicants questions that would reveal the existence of a disability – including questions about whether or not a job applicant had a prior workers’ compensation claims.

The ADA does not cover all employees.  First, your employer must employ fifteen or more people throughout the year.  Second, the employee must have an impairment that substantially limits or impairs his or her ability to perform major life activities – such as walking, lifting, reaching, or working.  Third, the employee must be able to satisfactorily perform all of the essential functions of the job with, or without, reasonable accommodation.

There are two typical situations where the ADA can help a covered injured worker:

During treatment.  The ADA may provide protection to an injured worker with restrictions who can still perform his or her regular job with, or without, reasonable accommodation.

After Treatment.  A worker who is released to work with restrictions after treatment is protected so long as he or she is capable of performing all of the essential functions of the job.  If other positions open up – and the disabled employee is qualified to do the open position – then the ADA may provide a legal obligation to the employer to offer the position.

Essential Functions of the Job.  The ADA only protects an employee who can do all of the essential functions of the job.  What functions are essential will depend on the nature of the job and the real reason for the job.  For example, a receptionist may, on occasion, be asked to make coffee.  However the real function of the job is to answer the telephone and greet people entering the office.

Reasonable Accommodation.  If the disabled employee is capable of performing the job without any changes – then there is no need for reasonable accommodation.  Otherwise, the ADA permits the employee to request reasonable changes or assistive devices that will help him or her.  For example, if a disabled employee cannot use her arms above her shoulders – she may be able to use a step stool in order to perform work that would otherwise require to reach overhead.

The intersection between workers’ compensation and your employment rights is a complicated matter that varies with each case.  At Kaplan Morrell we have pursued our clients’ employment rights in the Colorado State and Federal Court. You need the support and experience of a Colorado workers’ compensation attorney immediately. Contact us here or call us at 303-780-7329 for your free legal consultation.