Workers’ Compensation Does Not Preclude A.D.A

A United States District Court has ruled that an employee has rights under the Americans With Disabilities Act (“ADA”), in addition to those under the California workers’ compensation statutes.

The County of Alameda, the defendant in this case, tried to have a claim made by the plaintiff under the provisions of the Americans With Disabilities Act disallowed as being duplicative of benefits already available under the California Workers’ Compensation Act. The Defendant was asserting that ADA overlapped with the provisions of Labor Code Section 132 (a).

One of the major arguments that the defendants relied on was the exclusive remedy of the California Workers’ Compensation Act. This argument had previously been utilized with success in a Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) case. In that decision, the court indicated that the exclusive remedy was applicable. The Court determined that the FEHA provisions for discrimination involving injuries was similar to the provisions of Labor Code Section 132 (a). Therefore, the Court felt that the exclusive remedy of workers’ compensation would apply so as not to duplicate benefits.

However, there is a difference in the type of case. The FEHA case was under state law. An ADA case comes under federal law. The defendant was arguing that in this instance state law-precluded relief under federal law. The County was trying to argue that the exclusive remedy under state law would preclude relief under federal law.

The Court specifically stated that the federal statute should not defer to any state remedy. The remedies in effect should be cumulative. Therefore, the applicant would have the benefit of both the state and federal laws. The Court looked as to Congress’ intent as whether the ADA statutes would defer to any state system and determined this was not the intent.

Once it was determined that the ADA did not by its terms defer to state law, it then had to determine whether federal preemption principles preclude giving effect to California’s exclusivity provisions. This analysis comes under the Supremacy Clause of The constitution. The question was whether the Workers’ Compensation Act conflicted with ADA. The Court found that the California Workers Compensation Act is preempted by the ADA.

Therefore, the District Court has determined that the applicant may have claims for discrimination under both Labor Code Section 132 (a) and ADA.  The employer should be made aware of this potential.

Case: Wood V. County of Alameda

Harvey Brown
3501 Jamboree Rd. Suite 602
Newport Beach, CA 92660

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