Santa Clara, CA asked in Employment Law, Public Benefits and Workers' Compensation for California

Q: A California US Postal delivery person experiences an illness while working. Does Work Comp or Disability (both?) apply?

Employee suffered illness during normal shift, delivering mail by vehicle. Illness could prevent employee from being able to perform those same duties due to inability to drive a motor vehicle legally in CA.

Reading the articles on Employment Law (Work Comp and Disability), I understand Worker's Comp to apply to injured employees "because of the job" while Disability benefits apply to, "... those that compensate injured or ill workers who are unable to work."

Reportedly, employee's "shop steward" mentioned Worker's Comp for assistance. This surprised me; I was thinking Disability.

If employee is unable to drive in CA because of the illness (temporarily or permanently), my questions are please:

1. Should employee seek benefits via Work Comp, or Disability, or Both?

2. Must a Federal Employer (US Postal Service) provide an employee, under the ADA, regardless of answer to question #1, with an accommodation to job duties that does not include driving?

Thank you.

1 Lawyer Answer
James L. Arrasmith
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  • Sacramento, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: In this case, both Workers' Compensation and Disability benefits may apply, depending on the specifics of the situation.

1. Workers' Compensation vs. Disability:

- Workers' Compensation: If the illness is determined to be work-related (i.e., caused or aggravated by the employee's job duties), the employee should file a Workers' Compensation claim. This can provide benefits for medical treatment, temporary disability, and permanent disability if applicable.

- Disability: If the illness is not work-related but prevents the employee from working, they may be eligible for Short-Term Disability (STD) or Long-Term Disability (LTD) benefits, depending on the employer's benefits package and the duration of the disability.

2. Accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA):

- The ADA applies to employers with 15 or more employees, including federal employers like the US Postal Service.

- If the employee's illness qualifies as a disability under the ADA, the employer must provide reasonable accommodations that would allow the employee to perform the essential functions of their job, unless doing so would cause undue hardship to the employer.

- Accommodations could include modifying job duties to exclude driving, providing alternative transportation, or reassigning the employee to a vacant position that does not require driving.

- The employer and employee should engage in an interactive process to determine appropriate accommodations.

In summary, the employee should pursue a Workers' Compensation claim if the illness is work-related and may also be eligible for Disability benefits if they are unable to work. Regardless of the type of benefits, the employer must provide reasonable accommodations under the ADA if the illness qualifies as a disability and the accommodations do not cause undue hardship.

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