Some workplace injuries eventually heal completely. But it is common for an injured or sickened worker to never recover fully. Nevertheless, most work accident victims want to go back to work as soon as they are able. As with any disabled worker, survivors of workplace injuries in Minnesota are entitled to reasonable accommodations to allow them to do their jobs under the U.S. Americans With Disabilities Act and the state Human Rights Act.
There is obviously an intersection between workers’ compensation and employment law here. What if a person gets hurt on the job, receives workers’ compensation, and returns to work, only to be refused a reasonable accommodation by their employer? Could that person be entitled to an employment discrimination claim in addition to the workers’ comp relief?
New direction in Minnesota law
For decades, the answer in Minnesota was “no.” That has changed thanks to a recent decision by the state supreme court in favor of a Minneapolis firefighter whose request to wear sneakers at the station house was refused.
The firefighter was struggling with back problems. His doctor prescribed him to wear tennis shoes instead of standard firefighter boots, at least when not dealing with an emergency. But his superiors would not let him. He eventually received a $125,000 workers’ compensation settlement and retired.
He later filed a disability discrimination claim against the City of Minneapolis. The city argued that he was barred from making the claim based on a 30-year-old Minnesota Supreme Court decision that prohibits collecting twice for the same injury.
Discrimination claim allowed to proceed
But in a 5-2 ruling, the court ruled the man’s discrimination claim can proceed. “Unlike the workers’ compensation act,” Justice Margaret Chutich wrote in the decision, “the human rights act is a civil rights law that protects employees from unlawful employment discrimination.”
Talk to a Minnesota workers’ compensation attorney
Hopefully, if you get hurt at work, you will be able to go back to work someday without the sort of problems encountered by the man in this story. But first, you will likely need workers’ compensation benefits to help pay your medical bills and other expenses. A conversation with a workers’ comp attorney will help you understand the process.