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Back Pains and Muscle Strains: Protection From Disability Discrimination

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, nearly every person experiences back pain that interferes with work at some point in their lives.  In fact, lower back pain is the leading cause of missed work and job-related disability.

Many times, back and other strain related injuries are caused by non-ergonomic equipment used at work.  As an employee, if you have experienced an injury that arose during the course of your employment that was caused by your job related duties, you may be eligible for workmans compensation benefits. Once an injury has occurred, be sure to immediately notify your employer of the injury and know that you only have two years from the incident or onset of the condition to file a claim with the Worker’s Compensation Board.

If you have a chronic disability caused by repetitive strain injury, you most likely are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and have a right to request a reasonable accommodation to help you perform the essential functions of your job. Accommodations may include ergonomic equipment, restructuring of a job, or modifying a work schedule.  In order to receive an accommodation, your employer must be aware of your disability and the accommodation cannot cause undue hardship to your employer in terms of excessive cost.

Although employees with disabilities are legally entitled to reasonable accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act, they are often at risk of employer retaliation for requesting them.   Discrimination can affect job application procedures, hiring, firing, advancement, compensation, training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment.

Very recently, a U.S. District Court in Kentucky awarded $46,000 to a woman who was fired from Americold Logistics because of chronic lower back pain that caused her to miss work.   The Court ruled that this termination was discriminatory and violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.   Give the availability of emotional distress and punitive damages, jury verdicts under the ADA for those disabled by repetitive strain injury have reached into the six figures, and some into the seven figures.

If you have been injured while at work or have a chronic work related injury and were either denied an accommodation or faced discrimination, it is particularly important to contact an employment lawyer early in the process to determine in the first instance if your injury is in fact protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act.  A lawyer with experience in disability discrimination will also be able to give you advice on whether or not you are likely to prevail in court, and might be willing to take your case on a contingency arrangement, meaning that you will not need to pay a legal fee at the start of your case.

Christopher Davis is an experienced employment litigator specializing in class actions, overtime wage recovery, discrimination, whistleblower retaliation, and Wall Street bonus disputes. Before entering private practice, Mr. Davis served as an Assistant District Attorney in the Manhattan District Attorney's Office where he prosecuted violent crimes as a member of the Sex Crimes Unit.