It is illegal for an employer to discriminate against an employee or applicant due to a disability, health condition or perceived disability. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) is the law that prohibits disability discrimination in the workplace, with companies that have 15 or more employees.
The employer cannot show bias when it comes to hiring, firing, wages, benefits, promotions or level of position with regard to the employee’s disability or health condition.
In addition, the law says that employers must make reasonable accommodations for a disabled employee so the employee can do the job despite a disability.
The Law Office of Cohen & Jaffe, LLP can provide the help you need if you’ve been the victim of discrimination based on a disability or health condition in the workplace.
We are ready to answer your questions, including whether you qualify as disabled, whether your employer provided reasonable accommodations and if what you experienced is considered discrimination under the law.
If you have a valid claim, our Long Island disability discrimination lawyer can help you file a claim with the proper agency and make sure deadlines are met. If your rights have been violated, we are here to see they are restored and that you receive the maximum compensation you deserve under the law.
Workplace Discrimination Based on Disability or Health Condition is Illegal
For a disability discrimination claim to be valid, you must first show that you actually qualify as disabled under the definition of “disability” in the ADA.
An individual may be considered disabled if he or she falls into one or more of the following categories:
- The person has a documented impairment.
- There is a perception by others that the person has a disability.
- The person’s ability to perform one or more major life functions is limited due to a physical or mental disability.
In addition, it must also be evident that the applicant or employee can, in fact, perform the duties of the position due to the person’s training, skills, education or experience, and that this can be accomplished with reasonable accommodations.
Even a perceived disability may be the basis of illegal discrimination.
For example, an employer may consider an employee or an applicant to be disabled based on a perceived impairment. An example could be someone with a severe limp, but who qualifies for the job and would be able to adequately and professionally perform the duties of the job. The employer feels that the “perceived disability” will distract other employees or the employee won’t fit in, and so does not hire or promote the individual. This is illegal.
It is also illegal to harass an employee who had or has a disability or health condition. While good-natured teasing or an infrequent comment may not qualify as harassment, frequent cutting comments or one that is clearly meant to be harmful or offensive could be discriminatory. The offender could be the employee’s supervisor, another employee or even a non-employee who is associated with the company, such as a client.
A critical facet of a valid discrimination claim is whether the action, or non-action, taken by the employer was instrumental in the ensuing adverse employment action taken.
Take Legal Action for Disability Discrimination in New York
In order to file a claim for disability or health condition discrimination, you should file a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) if the company has 15 or more employees.
For 4-14 employees, you should file the complaint with the New York Division of Human Rights. If you live in New York City, the complaint may be filed with the New York City Commission on Human Rights.
How to Treat People with Disabilities
How would you feel if you went to a store for something important, only to find the store manager had put up an obstacle course in front of what you needed? What if you went for a job interview and the employer simply took one look at you and assumed you were not able to do the work? Finally, how would you feel if you spent your whole life overcoming odds, exceeding expectations, and defeating challenges, yet people often refer to you with words that make you seem weak.
For people who are disabled, raising awareness about discrimination is a constant battle anywhere they go. At Law Office of Cohen & Jaffe, LLP, our disability discrimination attorneys in Long Island have more than a century of combined legal experience fighting for the rights of those who have faced discrimination. Now, we have combined our knowledge of discrimination law with advice from our disabled clients to craft an informative guide called HOW TO TREAT THE DISABLED: INTEGRATE, DON’T DISCRIMINATE.
We invite you to download this free guide and share it with anyone you know who may need help understanding how to treat people with disabilities.
What This Guide Covers
First and foremost, you should understand that people do not want to be defined by their disabilities. They do not want your pity or an awkward avoidance. Rather, they just want you to treat them like you would treat anyone else.
Many disabled people work hard to empower themselves and be as independent as possible. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) outlines regulations that aim to make it easier for people to accomplish these goals of independence, particularly in the workplace and out in public. Our guide includes tips for everyone ─ employers, store owners, and disabled people ─ on their rights and responsibilities related to these regulations.
Tips for Employers on How to Treat People with Disabilities
There are strict protections for disabled people in the workplace, and many of them come down to respect and common sense. For example:
Be sensitive with your words. There are many terms used in the past that are now considered insensitive. Do not use the words “crippled,” “retarded,” or “handicapped,” and avoid calling a disabled person a “victim” or a “sufferer.” In general, you should never use insulting or derogatory language.
Do not create obstacles. Think about how your workplace is set up and whether it creates considerable physical barriers for an employee with a disability.
Give job applicants a fair shake. It is illegal to refuse to hire a person based on a disability. You should also never ask about medical status in a job interview.
Do not tolerate harassment. It is illegal to intimidate an employee based on a disability. This applies to harassment from coworkers and clients, as well as supervisors.
Tips for Business Owners on Accommodating People with Disabilities
A disabled person should be able to access all the general areas of your building. This includes parking lots, restrooms, elevators, and entrance ways. Some tips for ensuring your store or business is accessible include:
Keep entryways clean. Make sure wheelchair ramps are free of debris and that obstacles such as trash cans would not keep a disabled person from being able to move around.
Clearly mark accessible routes. Indicating locations of stairs and elevators helps disabled people choose the best route to where they are going.
Be vigilant about preventing falls. Many disabled people are more susceptible to falls, so clean up hazards such as spills immediately and put up warning signs.
Lend a helping hand. There are going to be situations where a person with a disability may need help accessing something. For example, a person in a wheelchair may not be able to easily reach an electronic payment device at checkout. Handing the person a clip board to sign for credit cards can make the process a little easier.
Be open to service animals. It can be considered discrimination to deny access to a disabled person’s service animal in areas where other members of the public are allowed to go.
A special note to building owners: Buildings that were constructed before 1990 do not have to adapt amenities to accommodate people with disabilities. However, if you do construction on your property or have it remodeled, you are expected to make adjustments for access.
Know Your Rights as a Person with a Disability
You have worked hard to get where you are, and you deserve to be treated fairly and with respect. If an employer or business owner has discriminated against you based on your disability, you may have a right to compensation. Depending on the circumstances of your case, our disability discrimination attorneys may demand:
Back pay if you have been fired and then reinstated to your job
Compensation for the emotional pain and suffering caused by the discrimination
Payment for medical bills if you were physically injured on the property or needed counseling to cope with the discrimination
Punitive damages meant to punish the offending company in extreme cases
Costs associated with filing a discrimination claim, such as court costs and attorneys’ fees
If you suspect or know that you have been discriminated against because of a disability, do not hesitate to speak with a knowledgeable Long Island disability attorney. A compassionate attorney can go over your rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act and outline the steps for pursuing a complaint.
Quality Legal Help for Workplace Discrimination
The Law Office of Cohen & Jaffe, LLP is experienced in helping individuals fight unfair workplace practices. We know the anguish that can result if a disability or health condition is used against you at work.
Every discrimination claim is different. We take the time to fully understand your unique situation. It takes skill and experience to know which factors could make the difference in a successful lawsuit.
Contact us today to start the discussion and get the quality legal help you need.
For a free legal consultation with a lawyer serving Long Island, call 516-358-6900