Visitor Question

Can’t return to work after surgery?

Submitted By: Michael (Tacoma, Washington)

I am a truck driver, and I have worked for the same trucking company in Washington State for 28 years. In September 2015 while at work I injured my knee stepping off the back of a trailer. The injuries were to my anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), to my meniscus ligament, and to my medial collateral ligament (MCL).

The injuries required surgery. While awaiting surgery I was assigned light duties at the company. After surgery the doctors said my injuries resulted in a 35% partial disability.

My supervisor told me I would able to return to work after surgery, and that if I couldn’t drive anymore he would find other duties for me. When I tried to return to work he told me “corporate” had overruled him, and that I could no longer work at the company. I’ve attempted to reach corporate headquarters to speak with someone about this. So far, they have not returned my calls. 

I believe I am the victim of corporate discrimination based on a disability. Is there any action I can take? Where do I go from here?

Disclaimer: Our response is not formal legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Do not rely upon the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site, when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a personalized case review from a local attorney.

Answer

Dear Michael,

To understand federal law as it relates to employment discrimination requires a review of the American with Disability Act.

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), discrimination occurs when an employer or other entity covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act treats a qualified individual with a disability (who is an employee or applicant) unfavorably because s/he has a disability.

The American Disability Act defines a disability as:

“…physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity, including a major bodily function such as the proper functioning of the reproductive or nervous system.”

While no one would doubt you have a partial disability, the type of disability you have does not appear to be covered under the American Disabilities Act. However, Washington State has its own definition and classification of workplace discrimination.

Under the Washington State Revised Code §49.60.180:

It is an unfair practice for any employer:

(1) To refuse to hire any person because of age, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, race, creed, color, national origin, honorably discharged veteran or military status, or the presence of any sensory, mental, or physical disability.”

However the law goes on to state:

“…the prohibition against discrimination because of such disability shall not apply if the particular disability prevents the proper performance of the particular worker involved.”

Unfortunately, based on your inability to perform your former work duties it is arguable you have not been the subject of workplace discrimination under the Americans with Disability Act or Washington State Law.

Moreover, Washington State law does not require employers to find a different job or new set of duties to a worker who is unable to perform his or her former work duties.

For more information about Washington Workplace discrimination go to the Washington State Human Rights Commission.

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

Best of luck,

Published: October 19, 2017

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