I was recently exposed to audio trauma resulting in high frequency hearing loss and tinnitus during a scheduled shift while performing the duties of my position. My current employment requires me work in an environment with noise exposure frequently in the 65-80 dB range and infrequently in the 75-90 dB range. Due to the nature of my work, it is not physically possible to wear hearing protection while performing my essential duties.
I filed a workers compensation claim with my employer, who placed me on 'light duty' and scheduled a doctor's visit. The doctor verified my condition through audio tests and referred me to an Ear, Nose, and Throat Specialist. The ENT confirmed the hearing loss, but was unable to determine if the condition is permanent or temporary, although indications are that it is permanent. He also gave me a work restriction of no exposure to noise pressure at or above 80 dB, effectively preventing me from performing my essential job duties. I spoke with my employer after seeing the specialist and I was told:
1. If temporary, I would retain my 'light duty' status until the injury improves whereas I'll be returned to 'full duty'.
- This, I have no problem with.
2. If permanent, my employer stated that the company may or may not pay for part of a hearing aid remedy. If they did pay for part of the remedy, I would still be responsible for my health insurance deductible plus 20% of the cost of the hearing aid. Secondly, high frequency hearing loss is not compensable under Arkansas worker's compensation law and I would receive no settlement. Lastly, as I would no longer be able to perform the essential duties of my job with or without reasonable accommodations, my employment would be terminated since they have no obligation to transfer me to an open position to which I am qualified for that is at or below my current pay grade.
- This, I am displeased with.
Thus, my questions are:
1. Does my work injury qualify for disability by ADA standards and thus give me ADA protections?
2. Can my employer essentially injure me and then terminate me due to the injury with no responsibility other than paying for a doctor visit to verify that I'm injured?
3. Where do I go from here?