What Is a Disability – What constitutes a disability varies depending on the legal context. This blog will address how disability is defined under disability insurance policies, workers’ compensation law, and the Americans With Disabilities Act and the New Hampshire Law Against Discrimination.
Many employees have a short-term disability and/or a long-term disability policy through their employment. Whether an employee is entitled to receive benefits under such a policy depends on whether the employee meets the definition of disability contained in the policy. If you believe you may be eligible to receive disability benefits under such an insurance policy, you must consult the policy to learn how it defines disability. Many disability policies define “disability” as a non-work-related condition that disables the employee from performing the material duties of his or her occupation.
Employees who suffer disabling injuries arising out of and in the course of their employment are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. An employee is totally disabled within the meaning of New Hampshire workers’ compensation law if the employee is unable to engage in “gainful employment,” meaning “employment which reasonably conforms to the employee’s age, education, training, temperament, and mental and physical capacity to adapt to other forms of labor than that to which the employee was accustomed.” An employee is partially disabled for purposes of New Hampshire workers’ compensation law if the employee is capable of returning to gainful employment but incapable of earning what the employee earned before the work injury.
What Is An Impairment?
Disability is defined much differently under the Americans With Disabilities Amendments Act (ADAAA) and its New Hampshire State law analogue, the New Hampshire Law Against Discrimination. Under these laws, a person is disabled if the person suffers from an impairment or impairments that substantially limit the person in at least one (1) major life activity. Major life activities are defined under the ADAAA to include without limitation “caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating and working.” Importantly, the ADAAA in the employment context only protects from employment discrimination those employees who can perform the essential functions of their jobs despite their disabling impairments, either without any accommodation from their employers or with some reasonable accommodation.
If you believe you have a disability and need assistance either obtaining disability benefits or protecting your rights in the workplace, you should contact an attorney experienced in disability law such as Benjamin King at Douglas, Leonard & Garvey. Attorney King can be reached at 603-224-1988 or fill out our online contact form.