If you get hurt on the job, you are often entitled to workers’ compensation. Additionally, if your injuries are bad enough, you may become disabled under the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA. This is important because, if you are covered by the ADA but are able to return to work in some capacity, often by performing light duty work, you are protected from workplace discrimination based on your new disability.
All too often, workers in Missouri lose their jobs because of a disability that was caused by an accident that happened while they worked in that very same role. These victims have legal protections and the right to enforce them.
Hurt Workers are Protected from Discrimination
The ADA is a federal law that covers most employers with 15 or more employees. It forbids discrimination in the workplace that is based on a worker’s disability. Under 42 U.S.C. § 12102, a disability is defined as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, such as performing manual tasks, walking, standing, lifting, bending, reading, or working.
After many workplace accidents, victims fall under this wide definition of having a disability. When they do, if their employer is covered by the ADA, then their employer cannot discriminate against them because of that disability, so long as the worker can perform the essential functions of their job with reasonable accommodations.
Refusing to provide those reasonable accommodations or treating the worker differently than other workers because of his or her disability can amount to discrimination.
For workers who are already dealing with a serious injury from a workplace accident, disability discrimination can rub salt in their wounds. It also entitles them to a lawsuit because these claims are an exception to the rule that workers’ compensation is the exclusive remedy for workplace injuries.
Workers’ Compensation Claims Do Not Keep You from Filing a Discrimination Claim
Generally, if you get hurt in the workplace, your only recourse is to file for workers’ compensation: You cannot file a personal injury lawsuit against your employer for their role in causing your injuries.
This is the exclusive remedy rule of workers’ compensation law. In Missouri, it is explicit – Missouri Statute 287.120(2) says that your workers’ compensation rights “shall exclude all other rights and remedies of the employee… on account of such injury or death by accident or occupational disease.”
However, disability discrimination is conduct that, while technically related to the workplace accident, is not subject to the exclusive remedy rule because it is not connected to your injury closely enough. Because it is conduct by your employer that goes beyond the workers’ compensation scheme, your workers’ comp case does not prevent you from also filing a lawsuit for discrimination against your employer.
Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at the Smith Law Office in St. Joseph
Unfortunately, these cases are not uncommon. Many employers use disabilities caused by workplace injuries as the basis for unfair treatment or even a discharge. When they do, it can turn a workers’ compensation case into a lawsuit for disability discrimination – one that does not imperil your workers’ compensation benefits.