How Workers Comp and ADA Laws Protect You at Work

Job stability provides peace of mind and financial resources that keep you and your family afloat during the toughest times. That can all come crashing down when accidents happen and you find yourself out of work for an extended period of time. Thankfully, the Workers Compensation and Americans with Disabilities Acts both provide certain protections against being unfairly fired should you need long-term medical care outside of work.

Workers Compensation Act

There are workers’ comp laws at both the federal and state level in North Carolina. The state law requires all employers with more than three employees to obtain workers comp insurance to ensure the ability to pay out workers comp benefits. The federal law provides the actual benefits including wage replacement, medical treatment, and more.

These acts work together to make sure you have at least some level of protection should an accident happen at work and result in an injury that forces you to take time off.


To qualify for workers’ comp you will need to prove an accident happened during the normal duties of your position. This means the wear and tear on your body from normal activities are generally not covered. It’s important to consider an exact moment where an injury may have occurred and the unusual condition that caused it as this will be required before you can receive any benefits.

Time off

The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for employees with serious health conditions and employees cannot be fired within those 12 weeks as long as certified medical professionals verify the continued need for leave. This can be used should a serious injury happen at work, but the worker’s comp act has limited protections once those 12 weeks of FMLA expire.

Wage replacement

You will be entitled to full pay for sick or medical leave time provided by your employer, but once you use the balance of your paid time off your wages drop. As mentioned above, FMLA leave is for unpaid time off, but some employers will pay you during this time. Workers’ comp provides you with two-thirds (2/3) of your average weekly wage for additional time off.

You can recoup some of the medical costs through workers’ comp but mental pain and anguish are NOT covered.

Return to work

Workers’ comp does not provide you with a guaranteed return to your previous position. The law allows your employer to replace you should and should you need leave beyond the 12 weeks provided by FMLA you may be let go. Once medical professionals approve you to return to work you may need to work with your employer to find a role and communicate any limitations.

If you are let go and seek work, you will need to prove to officials that you are actively trying and failing to find another job in order to qualify for extended workers’ comp benefits.

Americans with Disabilities Act

This federal law provides far greater protection for those who suffer serious injuries at work and need to take extended leaves and/or have limitations upon returning to work. A lot of people miss out on money they’re owed because they think they have a workers’ comp case when what they really have is an ADA case.


Anyone with a disability qualifies under the ADA, and the actual definition found in the law is a “person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits major life activities.” More people qualify for protections in this act than know. In fact, 61 MILLION Americans are defined as having disabilities.

You will have to prove an accident resulting in serious injury as you do with workers’ comp, but once you prove this your ADA case can provide you with must greater protection.

Time off

ADA protections extend beyond the 12 weeks of leave provided through FMLA as long as a medical professional deems a continued need for leave or limitations. Your employer can not legally fire you at this point in time, unlike workers’ comp cases.

Wage replacement

You will be owed your full salary should you be defined as having a disability preventing you from either returning to work or from fully resuming the scope of your position.

The ADA also provides you with reimbursement for mental pain and anguish which workers’ comp does not do.

Return to work

This is one of the biggest differences: you are guaranteed your previous position as long as you can return to work under reasonable conditions and your employer is able to accommodate. Your employer would need to prove they are unable to provide you with your position under reasonable accommodations. This includes circumstances where another available position can be fulfilled within your abilities.

If reasonable accommodation is not met, your employer is required to provide your salary while you look for work with another employer.

Contact us

Ultimately, the protections of the ADA far surpass the benefits of workers’ comp protections. Attorney Ralph Bryant Jr. has extensive experience getting injured workers the protections and wages they deserve while they miss work. Many of those cases started as workers’ comp claims but expanded to ADA cases. Contact us today and get what you deserve.

The following two tabs change content below.

Ralph Bryant Law Firm

Aggressive and Compassionate Legal Representation in North Carolina | With over three decades of experience in both state and federal courts, Attorney Ralph Bryant Jr. is committed to getting you justice. Our office is in Greenville, North Carolina, but we serve clients across Eastern North Carolina and in the Triad. Regardless of your legal situation, you can count on us to bring you the best legal advice and services in the region. We don’t care what your background is or what you need from us. Our goal is to help you take power back in your life through aggressive and compassionate legal solutions. There is always hope when you work with Attorney Ralph Bryant Jr.

Latest posts by Ralph Bryant Law Firm (see all)

%d bloggers like this: