The world of workers’ compensation law and disability law as it applies to the workplace can be confusing. Most people do not have much experience with either law until they are suddenly injured on the job.
If you become disabled due to a workplace injury, what are your rights in the workplace?
Workers’ compensation vs. the ADA
Worker’s compensation is a state-run system designed to provide health care benefits, lost wages and other benefits to workers injured on the job at no cost. In exchange for employers providing workers’ compensation, workers cannot sue their employer if they are injured on the job.
In contrast, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a set of federal and state laws meant to prevent disabled employees from being discriminated against in the workplace.
The ADA states that employers are required to provide disabled employees with the reasonable accommodations needed to perform their job duties. Employers also cannot make adverse employment decisions based on an employee’s disability.
Does workers’ compensation overlap with the ADA?
Injuries sustained on the job that qualify for workers’ compensation do not always overlap with the ADA unless the injury results in a permanent disability. With some exceptions for certain temporary injuries, a workplace injury generally does not fall under the umbrella of federal ADA protections unless it results in a permanent, qualifying disability.
Still, under state law, employers in Minnesota cannot discriminate against workers who seek workers’ compensation benefits.
Minnesota law protects employees who are seeking workers’ compensation
Under Minnesota statutes, an employer cannot fire or threaten to fire a worker for seeking workers’ compensation benefits. Employers cannot also intentionally obstruct a worker from seeking workers’ compensation benefits. This is called workplace retaliation.
Workers can sue their employer for damages if their employer violates these laws.
Also, employers are prohibited from refusing to continue to employ an injured worker without reasonable cause if the worker can still perform their job duties despite their physical limitations.
Workers can sue their employer if this happens.
So, if you are disabled on the job, you may be covered by the ADA. And, if you sought workers’ compensation, you may be protected under state law as well, even if your injury was temporary.