What If You’re Hurt and Still Need to Work?

Jun 1 2022

Betsy Ingraham: Hi, this is Betsy Ingraham, an attorney at the law firm of Garrison, Levin-Epstein, Fitzgerald & Pirrotti in New Haven, Connecticut, and we’re here today to talk about what happens if you get hurt and you still need to go to work and do your job. Let’s say you unfortunately get hurt either at work, or at home, or some other way. You might be wondering what to do if that injury affects your ability to do your job. If it does, there are some options available to you and some protections that the law provides.

If your injury is serious enough to count as a disability, your employer has some obligations to you. Specifically, if your injury is a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of your major life activities, it may be that your employer has an obligation to accommodate that disability. It’s important to note that you can only get an accommodation for your disability if your injury substantially limits one of your major life activities. Some examples of a major life activity are eating, hearing, lifting, reading, seeing, sitting, standing, walking. If your injury impairs your ability to do a major life activity like that, you may be able to be classified as a person with a disability.

Now, for example, let’s say that you get hurt and break your leg. That’s obviously a temporary condition that’s going to heal and hopefully, you’re going to be back to 100% at some point. Temporary disabilities that are minor don’t qualify as disabilities that your employer has to accommodate. So, for example, if you have a cold or the flu or you sprain your ankle but it heals in a week or two, that generally doesn’t qualify as a disability, assuming it doesn’t have any serious or long-term consequence.

A short-term illness or other condition might qualify as a disability, however, if it leads to a permanent disability. For example, if you fell off your bike and hit your head and got a concussion that led to a significant brain injury down the road that ultimately limited your ability to engage in a life activity, that could be something that your employer would need to accommodate by a way of an employment accommodation.

The law is unclear about whether a temporary disability will qualify as something that your employer needs to accommodate. There is some law that says that if your disability is sufficiently severe, even if it only lasts for a short period of time, your employer might have to accommodate it. In order to make this claim, you have to show that you’re somehow substantially limited in those life activities we talked about that makes you unable to perform the conditions of your job. If you have one of these temporary disabilities, you really are going to want to talk to an attorney to see if, in fact, your employer has an obligation to accommodate you. The law tries to be broad and to help employees as much as possible so that they can get accommodations to do their job, but it’s best to speak with an attorney to see if your temporary disability is something that your employer needs to accommodate.

Your employer is not required to accommodate in such a way that the employer would experience substantial hardship. If there was some excessive interference with your ability to do your job, the employer is not required to make an accommodation. So any accommodation that you ask for really needs to be something that can work both for the employer and for you to help you do your job.

So, when you have a situation where you have a temporary injury and you need accommodation in order to perform your job activities, it’s really best to contact a lawyer to find out whether or not the law entitles you to that type of accommodation. Here at Garrison, Levin-Epstein, Fitzgerald & Pirrotti, we’re very happy to help you with that, so please feel free to contact us if you have any questions about this or any advice that you might need to seek about trying to get an accommodation for your temporary disability.

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betsy ingraham discussing injuries that impact work

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