While both long-term disability insurance policies and the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) provide definitions of disability, these definitions often are quite different. If an employee’s illness or injury qualifies them as “disabled” to receive reasonable accommodations in the workplace under the ADA, they are not necessarily also entitled to long-term disability benefits. Not only do the definitions of disability differ markedly, but they also trigger a different set of benefits.
The ADA is a federal law that applies to employers with 15 or more employees, as well as employment agencies, labor organizations, and joint labor-management committees with any number of employees. Employees qualify for ADA protections if they are disabled and can carry out the essential functions of a job, based on their skills and qualifications, with or without accommodations. A person with a disability is one who has any of the following:
- A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities
- Has a record of such an impairment, or
- Is regarded as having such an impairment
If a disabled employee can do his or her job thoroughly by having a reasonable accommodation, then employers who are subject to the ADA must provide that accommodation, unless it would pose an undue hardship. Part of reasonable accommodations may include altering work schedules or allowing periods of leave.
On the other hand, a long-term disability insurance policy typically requires that an employee be unable to perform the essential tasks of his or her job as a result of a medical condition, illness, or injury. Even with a reasonable accommodation, then, the employee is unable to work. This situation triggers eligibility for long-term disability benefits in most cases.
Therefore, the fact that you have a disability that requires your employer to provide you with a reasonable accommodation in the workplace does not automatically qualify you for long-term disability benefits. You may have a disability for ADA purposes but still can work with reasonable accommodations. On the other hand, if your disability prevents you from working altogether, then you may be eligible for long-term disability benefits.
Bonnici Law Group has handled the claims of countless individuals who have encountered difficulties in procuring long-term disability benefits under their employers’ ERISA-governed insurance policies. We will protect your rights and advocate on your behalf throughout every stage of the claims process. Call our office at 619-259-5199 to set up an appointment to speak with us today.