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Can Workers’ Compensation and the Americans with Disabilities Act Intertwine?

On Behalf of | Feb 12, 2020 | Firm News

In a hypothetical situation where an employee is injured on the job, would the employer be required to retain the employee if they were no longer able to fully perform their job? These types of questions arise on occasion and involve a careful analysis of the interplay between two laws that are both designed to protect employees from loss of employment.

Americans with Disabilities Act

The American with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law that prohibits employers from discriminating against qualified applicants or employees based on their disability. It applies to all private employers having 15 or more employees as well as governmental workers. A person with a disability under the ADA is someone who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. The ADA applies to all aspects of employment, including hiring, firing, promoting, compensating, recruiting, training, advertising, lay-offs, leave, employee benefits, and all other benefits, conditions, and privileges of employment.

To be qualified for a job, a person must meet the skill, experience, education, and other requirements of the job. It also requires the applicant or employee to be able to perform the essential functions of the job, either with or without reasonable accommodation. A reasonable accommodation is an effort on the part of an employer to modify or adjust a job, the work environment, or the way things are done. The accommodation serves to enable a qualified employee with a disability to do their job and have equal access to benefits and privileges of employment that are enjoyed by employees without a disability.

It is unreasonable to expect an employer to lower quality or quantity standards. Employers are also not required to provide accommodations that would impose an undue hardship on their business. Pennsylvania has adopted a law essentially similar to the ADA called the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA).

Interaction Between ADA and Workers’ Compensation

Workers’ Compensation is an insurance program designed to protect employees who are injured on the job and to limit liability to employers. To receive benefits under the program, an employee is required to report their workplace-related injury or illness to their employer as soon as possible. The employer is not permitted to fire the employee but must instead provide certain lost salary and medical expense benefits.

The interaction between the ADA and Workers’ Compensation comes into play if a workplace injury or illness results in an employee having a permanent impairment or physical restriction. Before the ADA and similar state laws were passed, the only obligation an employer had related to employment was to pay the fractional salary benefit as per the applicable Workers’ Compensation law. Now, under the ADA and similar state laws, an employer is also required to provide a reasonable accommodation for an injured employee to return to work, provided the employee is still able to perform the essential job functions.

Pittsburgh Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at AlpernSchubert P.C. Help Injured Workers Receive the Benefits They Deserve

If you were injured at work, contact a Pittsburgh Workers’ Compensation lawyer at AlpernSchubert P.C. today. We will review your case and obtain the benefits you rightfully deserve. Located in Pittsburgh, we serve clients throughout western Pennsylvania, including Allegheny County, Washington County, and Lawrence County. Call us at 412-765-1888 or complete an online form to schedule a free initial consultation.