October 3, 2023

Obligate Law

Professional Law Makers

Handicap Discrimination Often leads to Worker’s Compensation Benefits

3 min read

Massachusetts General Laws c. 151 B and 152, speak directly to handicap disability under the worker’s compensation act. Pursuant to M.G.L. Chapter 152, an employee who sustains a work related injury and is capable of performing the essential functions of a job, with or without reasonable accommodation is a “qualified handicapped person” under the Massachusetts discrimination statute. Pursuant to Massachusetts General Laws c. 151 B § 1, a “qualified handicapped person is defined as; a handicapped person who is capable of performing essential functions of a particular job, or who would be capable of performing the essential functions of a particular job with reasonable accommodation to his handicap.

Massachusetts General Laws c. 151 B § 4(16), makes it unlawful for an employer to dismiss from employment or otherwise discriminate any person alleging to be a qualified handicapped person because of that handicap, as long as the person is capable of performing the essential functions of the position involved with the reasonable accommodation, unless the employer can demonstrate that the accommodation required to be made to the physical or mental limitations of the person would impose and undue hardship to the employer’s business. It is the employer’s burden to demonstrate that the accommodation sought is unreasonable because it would impose an undue hardship on the employers business. Yates v. Mass- C.E.O.P.S., 17 MDLR 1503, 1514 (1995).

A reasonable accommodation under Massachusetts law is amodification made in the way a job is conducted to enable handicapped workers to perform specific job functions. The issue of reasonable accommodation is only considered when a handicapped person is not able to perform the essential functions of the job. In areas employees need assistance, employed are obligated to make reasonable accommodation unless the accommodation would impose an undue hardship or require waiving or excusing an inability to perform an essential job function including, productivity requirements.

Employers aren’t required to provide a particular accommodation proposed by a handicapped person if there is an alternative accommodation that is available and that would enable the person to perform the jobs essential functions or if the employer can demonstrate an undue burden on the company. An employer may require proof of the existence of an impairment if a handicapped person requests reasonable accommodation. An employer is only required to accommodate an employee’s condition and isn’t required to accommodate the employee’s misconduct. An example of this is in the case of mental illness an employer doesn’t need to accommodate anti-social behavior.

An accommodation doesn’t have to be independently required by other safety or health regulations in order for said accommodation to be considered reasonable. Examples of reasonable accommodations include; changes in work schedules and assigned tasks, modification of job requirements, and provisions of adaptive equipment, a part-time or flexible schedule, and lastly light duty work.

Lastly an employer doesn’t have to undertake an accommodation if doing so conflicts with the following; contractual rights of other employees, if it causes other employees to work harder or longer hours, or requires the employer to hire new employees. The United States Supreme Court has held that an accommodation is not required under the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) if it conflicts with a company’s seniority rules, unless the employee shows “special circumstances.” http://www.mass.gov/mcad/disability1a.html#1

An example of handicap discrimination that could lead to worker’s compensation benefits is; if an employee who suffered a work-related shoulder injury while operating a truck without power steering, was discharged after being refused future assignments to trucks with power steering, and his injury prevented him from operating such trucks, the employee could state a claim under both the Worker’s Compensation Act and Massachusetts General Laws c. 151 B.

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