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How Does Workers’ Compensation overlap with the ADA?

Posted by Amber Boyd | Oct 10, 2022 | 0 Comments

The ADA's main goal is to make it illegal for businesses to discriminate against workers who have disabilities in any aspect of employment. The goal of a workers' compensation law, on the other hand, is to establish a system for assuring a swift and equitable resolution of employees' claims against employers for workplace injury and disease. Although the two laws' goals do not conflict, the simultaneous execution of the two laws has caused employers and people with disabilities to raise concerns in a number of areas. In this article, we will try to clarify those concerns.

  1. Does everyone who had an employment accident qualify as disabled under the ADA?


No, even if an employee has a "disability" as defined by a workers' compensation law, they might not qualify as having a "disability" under the ADA. 


  1. Can an employer reject a candidate with a disability based only on the assumption—accurate or unfounded—that the candidate poses a higher risk of occupational injury and higher workers' compensation costs?


No, unless the employer can demonstrate that the employee's employment in the role constitutes a "direct threat."


  1. When is it appropriate for an employer to inquire about a candidate's prior worker's compensation claims or workplace injuries?


After making an offer of employment but before the start of employment, an employer is permitted to inquire about a candidate's prior workers' compensation claims or occupational injuries as long as they are the same inquiries that are made to all applicants for the same job category.


  1. When an employee suffers a workplace accident or attempts to return to work after one, may the employer inquire about their handicap or demand that they undergo a medical exam? 


Yes, as long as the inquiries about disabilities or physicals are connected to employment and in accordance with the demands of the business.


  1. Can the employer obtain proof of a disability from an employee who requests a reasonable accommodation after suffering an occupational injury related to a disability?


Yes. The employer may demand adequate verification of the employee's entitlement to reasonable accommodation if the employee with a disability-related occupational injury asks for one and the need for one is not immediately apparent. 


  1. Do the ADA's confidentiality obligations extend to medical data pertaining to a workers' compensation or occupational injury claim made by a candidate or employee?


Yes. In addition to other information that must be kept confidential under the ADA, medical information regarding an applicant's or employee's occupational injury or workers' compensation claim must be gathered and maintained on separate forms and retained in a separate medical file. Even if a person is no longer an applicant or employee, an employer is still required to maintain the privacy of medical information.

  1. Must an employer create a new position or "bump" another employee from their position if there isn't a vacancy for an employee who can no longer execute their original employment due to a disability-related workplace injury?


In order to transfer an employee who can no longer perform the essential functions of his or her previous position, with or without reasonable accommodation, the ADA does not require that the employer create a new position or demote another employee.


While workers' compensation only mandates payment for missed wages and medical expenses, under the ADA employers are frequently required to continue offering work to their disabled employees. The majority of wounded workers won't be in a scenario where both laws might be applicable, but for those who are, skilled legal counsel is frequently required.


If you're in one of the situations mentioned above you can contact Attorney Amber Boyd for legal representation and legal advice. 

About the Author

Amber Boyd

Amber K. Boyd is a versatile professional with strong experience in managing complex litigation matters. She founded Amber K. Boyd Attorney at Law in 2013, where she is the sole practitioner. Ms. Boyd specializes in employment law with a focus on discrimination cases. She also has deep expertise ...


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