UPDATE to Illinois Law regarding disability. Starting January 1, 2022 a new law took affect. Under the new law, which is an expansion under the Illinois Human Rights Act "Act", the definition of discrimination based on a disability will include unlawful discrimination against an individual because of the individual's association with a person with a disability. This greatly expands who is now covered under the Act.
If you have been injured or have a disability you are protected at work by the Americans With Disabilities Act ("ADA"). The ADA is a very robust act that gives a wide range of protections. Under the ADA you can't be fired for having a disability or other injury. And under the ADA if you ask for a reasonable accommodation, your employer must grant it to you unless doing so is not reasonable and unless the business just can't do it for business reasons. What is a reasonable accommodation is very subjective and this is why it is important to get an experienced attorney involved early in the process. Generally, there are many jobs a person can perform at work that will fit into a reasonable accommodation. Many times employers just don't feel like putting forth the effort. It is really remarkable that this type of thing occurs but that seems to be the case. It is very important to provide your employer with the request in writing and to make it detailed. It is equally as important to make sure the employer provides their response in writing and that you or your attorney follow up to narrow down the employers answer.
The ADA is a federal law and therefore you can file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). After filing with the EEOC you can then ask for a right to sue letter and file a lawsuit in federal court. It is very important for you to have the proper documentation and to follow the strict time limits that apply. Federal court can be very expensive and unforgiving. I always try to negotiate a settlement prior to filing in federal court. Settlements are in the best interest of most employees as it gives them guaranteed money and allow them to move on with their life.
It is important that you don't notify the company verbally but rather put your request in writing and have your request backed up with medical documentation from your physician. If I am involved early, I can insure that the doctor provides reasonable detail which makes your claim stronger. As an employee you just can't tell your boss you have a medical condition and expect him to take your word for it. This means when you go to see your physician make sure he documents your condition and writes it in such a way that it will help you at work. If you can't lift over 40 pounds make sure it is written in your medical file. Don't expect your boss to be happy with your request but as long as it is reasonable, it must be granted. Make sure you put the request in writing to human resources and follow-up in writing too. If your request is denied, ask for as much detail as possible as to why it was rejected. You can then re-submit your request modifying it to fit into the companies denial. A skilled employment attorney can usually help you draft your re-submission in such as way as to get the request through.
The company will not make it easy for you. This is probably the first time you are making a request, hire an experienced attorney and don't go it alone. The company has experienced people trying to deny your request, fight the company on equal footing. Don't lose a good paying job with good benefits by trying to handle this complicated procedure alone. Just like your wouldn't operate on yourself, don't operate your legal case by yourself. I will gladly get involved early and guide you through the process.