Can an employee be terminated after being deemed permanently disabled?

by Eva
(Lyndhurst, NJ, USA)

Our employee was working in our fleet department and injured his back. He was out of work for a year, during which he had a surgery and extensive rehab. He finally returned to work light duty, and we placed him in another position as his original position did not meet his restrictions.

Now his doctor deemed him permanently disabled. The employee will not be able to return to his original position in our fleet department. Must we relocate him to another position, if this position meets his permanent restrictions?

Can we terminate him because he cannot return to his original position? Are we not allowed at all to terminate him because he is now protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)? Thank you for any information you can give.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Can an employee be terminated after being deemed permanently disabled?":

Eva (Lyndhurst, NJ, USA):

From the facts you present, if you decide to terminate the employment of your disabled worker because he is not able to perform his or her work duties, you will not be in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

According to the United States Department of Justice...

"The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination and ensures equal opportunity for persons with disabilities in employment, State and local government services, public accommodations, commercial facilities, and transportation."

Terminating the worker's employment does not rise to the level of discrimination set out in the Americans with Disabilities Act. He can no longer perform his job duties.

The ADA, as well as workers' compensation laws in the State of New Jersey, does not require an employer to relocate a disabled employee to work duties which suit the worker's mental or physical needs. As a result, it appears you would neither be in violation of the ADA or local workers' comp laws and regulations.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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