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Law Office of Cohen & Jaffe, LLP

My Disability Is One Part of Who I Am

Your disability does not define you. You are an individual with unique skills, weaknesses, passions, and experiences. This is evident in every area of your life, including the workplace.

October is National Disability Employment Awareness month. This month, we celebrate the contributions that disabled individuals make in the American workplace every day, proving that having a physical or mental disability does not prevent an individual from working hard and meeting his or her career goals. October 2015 marks the 70th anniversary of National Disability Employment Awareness month.

In the past 70 years, we have seen tremendous progress in the American workplace. Laws like the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 were passed to protect individual worker’s rights and provide them with the framework necessary to assert these rights. Unfortunately, discrimination against workers with disabilities still happens in workplaces across the United States – including here on Long Island. When one of these laws is violated, an individual has the right to take legal action against his or her employer with help from a Long Island disability discrimination lawyer.

Examples of Employment Disability Discrimination Cases

Any action committed against an individual solely based on his or her disability that inhibits or sabotages his or her career development may be considered to be disability discrimination. Examples of disability discrimination in the workplace include:

  • Terminating an individual solely because he or she is disabled, rather than because of his or her poor performance.
  • Failing to promote a disabled employee despite his or her being the most qualified applicant for the position.
  • Failing to hire an applicant, despite that applicant being the most qualified applicant for the job, because he or she is disabled.
  • Failing to provide a disabled individual with a reasonable accommodation for his or her disability. Not all requests for accommodation are reasonable, but when a requested accommodation is determined to be necessary for an employee to complete his or her job duties without creating an undue cost to the company or unnecessary burden on its other employees, it must be provided.
  • Denying an individual the ability to use paid disability leave if he or she needs it, such as days off for doctor visits.
  • Harassing an individual. This can mean making him or her the target of constant insensitive jokes or aiming derogatory slurs, such as “cripple,” at him or her.

Employment disability discrimination can be subtle or overt. In some cases, an individual might not realize he or she is facing discrimination. This October, take a critical look at the treatment disabled employees in your workplace receive. If you are disabled and feel you are a victim of discrimination, know your rights.

Disability Discrimination: What Are my Rights?

As an individual with a disability, you have the right to seek reasonable accommodation for your disability. A reasonable accommodation is a small change to your work schedule or workspace that allows you to fulfill your job duties without creating an undue burden on the company.

Examples of reasonable accommodations include:

  • Installing a wheelchair ramp at the company’s entrance.
  • Providing a reader or braille work materials for a blind employee.
  • Allowing an employee with diabetes breaks during his or her workday to pump insulin and take blood readings.
  • Providing a sign language interpreter for a deaf employee.
  • A modified desk or other piece of equipment to allow for a wheelchair to fit.
  • More time to complete training and other work tasks for an individual with an intellectual disability.
  • Permission to bring a service animal to work.

The key to determining whether a requested accommodation is reasonable is determining whether it places an undue burden on the company. If the accommodation is beyond what the company can provide with its available budget and other resources, it is not required to comply with the employee’s request.

Individuals who face workplace discrimination also have the right to file discrimination claims against their employers. Like other types of discrimination claims, such as sexual and race-based discrimination, a claimant must provide documentation of the discrimination in order to successfully file and pursue a disability discrimination claim. Once a claim is filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the claim is investigated to determine if any discrimination actually occurred. If so, the EEOC might require the company to pay a fine or other settlement amount to cover the victim’s economic damages.

Remember, your disability should not prevent you from earning a living or progressing your career. Document every instance of discrimination you face in your workplace and how it impacted you financially, such as requiring you to miss work or denying you certain career opportunities.

Discrimination victims also have the right to take legal action without the fear of retaliation. Retaliation is defined as any action taken against an individual as an attempt to punish him or her for an undesirable behavior. In the workplace, an employer might retaliate against an employee by firing or demoting him or her, giving him or her negative performance reviews despite his or her actual performance, or subjecting the employee to harassment.

Long Island Employment Discrimination Attorneys

This October, our team of Long Island employment lawyers at Law Office of Cohen & Jaffe, LLP is celebrating 70 years of embracing your disability. You should not face discrimination in the workplace because of your disability. If you do face workplace discrimination, or you think you might have, contact our firm today to discuss your experience during your initial legal consultation. During your consultation, we will work with you to determine if discrimination occurred and if so, how to proceed with your legal claim. Your claim might require involvement from the EEOC, the federal agency tasked with enforcing anti-discrimination laws in the workplace. Do not wait to contact our firm and begin the legal process of handling your claim. We can give you the personalized attention you need when you need it most.

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