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Fired Due to Back Injury
Back injuries frequently occur both at work and outside of work. So if you have experienced back pain while on the job, you are not alone. According to one recent study, more than one in four working adults experience low back pain. While back pain may or may not be indicative of a serious injury, serious back injuries are quite common. As many as 10% of all workers eventually change jobs, make a major change to their work activities, or stop working because of back pain. If not promptly examined and addressed, your daily work tasks may very well cause further harm to your back. When you end up missing time from work due to a back injury, the chances of you being fired increase significantly. Depending on your exact situation, it may be unlawful under California law for your employer to fire you because a back injury affects your ability to perform your customary job duties. Additionally, California law prohibits your employer from firing you because you reported suffering a back injury at work. If you have been fired due to a back injury, Contact Kokozian Law Firm, APC.The Back
The back is the part of the body that extends from the base of the neck and shoulders to the pelvis. The spinal column running along the center of the back is made up of 33 individual, vertically-stacked vertebrae. The vertebrae protect the spinal cord, and allow us to be upright and have full range of movement. Unfortunately, the back is vulnerable to injury since it is exposed to continual physical effort and various postures.Common Back Ailments
- Herniated Disc. Intervertebral discs are cartilage located between vertebrae that allow the spinal column to have some mobility while preventing damage to the spinal cord. When an intervertebral disc ruptures, it creates a herniated disc, pinching adjoining nerves.
- Sciatica. The sciatic nerve goes from the lower part of the back, through the hips and buttocks, to the bottom of each leg. Compression of the sciatic nerve can create damage so that a person suffers pain in the low back that can extend to the legs and feet.
- Low Back Pain. Low back pain is one of the most common bodily injuries and frequently causes people to miss time from work. Low back pain usually arises from muscle injuries due to trauma, heavy lifting, falls, or remaining in detrimental postures for an extended time. Most cases resolve over the course of a few weeks with rest, though more severe cases may require medication and physical therapy.
California Labor Code section 3208 defines a work-related injury as any injury or disease arising out of employment. Common work activities that lead to back injuries include:
- Heavy Lifting. Exerting yourself more strenuously than usual or failing to use safe lifting techniques can cause of a serious back injury.
- Repetitive Movement. Repetitive motion, such as bending over repeatedly to operate machinery or retrieve low-lying objects can cause a serious back injury.
- Inactivity. Sitting at a desk for hours every workday without periodically moving around can lead to serious back problems.
- Age. Workers in the 45 to 64 year age group are much more likely to suffer back injuries than their younger counterparts.
- Construction Work. Construction workers are essential to the prosperity of our nation. They build, maintain, and refurbish buildings, houses, bridges, roads, and sewers among other things. Construction workers commonly engage in physical work and are subjected to manual heavy lifting, vibrating machinery, walking on uneven surfaces, or prolonged standing. Those in construction occupations are more likely to suffer back injuries and miss time from work due to back injuries than in almost any other industry.
- Baggage Handling. Around 45,000 baggage screeners and 173,000 baggage handlers are employed in airports. These workers tend to lift heavy weights repetitively. Baggage weight can reach 70 pounds. Consequently, work-related back injuries are common in these professions.
- Patient Care. Nurses and nursing assistants play a crucial role in our healthcare system. Nurse-to-patient and nursing assistant-to-patient ratios affect the availability of coworkers to help lift, move, or reposition patients. When nursing professionals lift, move, or reposition patients with little or no assistance, back injuries often arise. Overall, nurses and nursing assistants have a higher incidence of injury than most other professions.
The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) (California Government Code section 12900, et seq.) prohibits employers with five or more employees from discriminating against workers based on disability. A back injury is a disability if it:
- Affects a body system, such neurological or musculoskeletal; and
- Limits a major life activity.
A back injury qualifies as limiting a major life activity if it makes it more difficult to achieve a major life activity.
Under FEHA, the term "major life activity" is defined to include physical, mental, and social activities and working.Reasonable Accommodation Under FEHA for Your Back Injury
FEHA requires employers to provide workers with disabilities reasonable accommodation—a modification or adjustment that will allow the worker to find employment or continue existing employment unless the accommodation would create an undue hardship for the employer (e.g. great expense or difficulty). Examples of a reasonable accommodation for a back injury include:
- Providing a leave of absence for medical care and recuperation.
- Changing job duties to reduce or eliminate tasks that would aggravate or renew symptoms of a back injury.
- Changing work schedules to facilitate visits to medical providers.
While many employers readily accommodate workers with back injuries, providing a leave of absence or reduced work schedule, or changing job duties, other employers think of a worker with a disability as a liability. The employer may fear that if they provide one reasonable accommodation to a worker, this will lead to further requests for reasonable accommodation. So instead of accommodating the worker, the employer fires the worker, overstating any performance or attendance issues as a pretext to fire the worker. This is when you should contact an attorney who knows how to assert the rights of disabled workers.Contact Us
If you believe you have been fired due to a back injury, or you believe your employer or former employer has otherwise violated your rights, call the experienced employment attorneys at Kokozian Law Firm, APC or Contact Us via our online form.