Under what circumstances are injured workers protected by the ADA?

A. For injured workers to be protected by the ADA, they must meet the ADA’s definition of a “qualified individual with a disability.” The worker must have an impairment that “substantially limits a major life activity.” The worker must also be able to perform the essential functions of their job, with or without an accommodation.

For example: If a construction worker falls from a ladder and breaks a leg and the leg heals normally, although the worker may be awarded Workers’ Compensation benefits for the injury, he or she would not be considered a person with a disability under the ADA.

The impairment suffered from the injury did not “substantially limit” a “major life activity” since the injury healed normally and had little or no long term impact.

However, if the worker’s leg took significantly longer to heal than normal and during this period the worker could not walk (a major life activity) he or she would be considered to have a “disability” under the ADA. If the injury caused a permanent limp, the worker might be considered disabled under the ADA if the limp substantially limits the worker’s walking.

An employer must consider work-related injuries on a case by case basis to know if a worker is protected by the ADA.