How the Americans with Disabilities Act Protects Your Job When You’re Injured

In America, we have the right to earn a living and prosper, and there are protections in place to make sure people with disabilities aren’t prevented from doing so. When workers are injured on the job, the first law most people think of is the Workers Compensation Act. There’s nothing wrong with this, but many workers never realize the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) actually provides further and more thorough protections when the injuries are significant and lead to the development of temporary or permanent disabilities.

An estimated 61 million adults in the U.S. live with a disability and American law is very straightforward on this: qualifying individuals with disabilities cannot be discriminated against in the workplace because of their disability. This same concept applies to individuals who develop a disability from an injury at work.

So, when should you evoke the ADA after your injury, and what additional protections does it provide?

What workplace injuries qualify?

Under Alabama law, workplace injuries or diseases must be caused by an accident on the job. If this injury or disease results in even a temporary disability that prevents the individual from doing their job fully, the ADA can come into play. However, qualifications under the ADA are more extensive than most state laws. The ADA requires that an employee has a documented physical or mental impairment that prevents them from doing day-to-day activities.

All this means if you suffer an injury on the job that can be proven to be of no fault of your own and that injury leads to a qualifying disability under the ADA, those protections will extend to you.

What protections does the ADA provide?

The term “reasonable accommodation” is the theme here. When you qualify for protections under the ADA, your employer must make every effort to reasonably accommodate you in your position. If your employer exhausts all options and cannot reasonably allow you to continue in this role, the ADA requires your employer to be responsible for either providing you with modified work or another role that can fulfill the reasonable accommodation requirements.

Your employer is not required to permanently provide you with these accommodations and different employers may have different rules, but your employer will need to provide proof if they claim or determine that accommodating your disability would prove costly to the organization.

What if I have to miss an extended period of time?

The reasonable accommodation we mentioned above also extends to a leave of absence for your disability. Your employer likely has a leave policy in place already, but the ADA requires employers to extend beyond their own leave policies whenever it falls into a reasonable accommodation for an employee recovering or dealing with a disability. However, it’s important to remember the reasonable part of reasonable accommodation. If your employer can prove granting you an extended leave would cause undue hardship to the company it can decline to grant you an extended leave.

You will first exhaust leave provided by your employer’s policy, along with policies like the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) which provides up to 12 weeks of leave. Once these options are exhausted, you will need to communicate with your employer about any further needs. 

These protections are important and imperative for a fair and reasonable country. Freedom defines who we are as Americans, and nobody should have their freedom to earn a living taken away just because of a disability. When you’re injured at work, don’t just think about Workers’ Compensation. Consider the protections of other laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act. Attorney John M. Totten, P.C. has extensive experience handling workplace injury cases. Contact our offices and we’ll make sure you get the protection you’re owed.

John M. Totten