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Workers’ comp disability doesn’t mean automatic ADA coverage

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Employee Benefits Program,Employment Law,Human Resources

Employees receiving partial workers’ compensation benefits based on job-related injuries might think they are automatically entitled to reasonable accommodations under the ADA, too. But that’s simply not true.

In fact, the ADA requires an individualized assessment. Each case must be examined on its own. Receiving workers’ compensation isn’t enough.

Recent case: Wanda Threatt worked for the U.S. Postal Service and hurt her ankle while on duty. She had surgery to repair the injury, but still had some trouble lifting, balancing and walking. The Office of Workers’ Compensation rated her impairment at 7%.

Threatt sued her employer for alleged disability discrimination. She charged that she had been targeted for harassment when supervisors shouted at her and delayed her leave paperwork. But the court declined to simply accept the impairment rating and thus conclude she was disabled. It insisted on looking at exactly how the ankle injury substantially limited a major life activity such as walking.

Threatt testified that she could no longer jump rope or run and walk as far as she used to. But she admitted that she could care for herself, walk up to a mile at a time, drive and engage in other normal activities with few problems. The court said she wasn’t disabled and dismissed her case. (Threatt v. Potter, No. 3:05-CV-116, WD NC, 2008)

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