There are three steps to establish a claim of disability discrimination in New Jersey and New York. First, you must demonstrate a prima facie (Latin for at first sight) case. Second, the employer will articulate a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for its action (demotion, suspension, termination, demotion). Third, you are required to demonstrate the reason offered by your employer was a mere “pretext” and that the true reason for the employer’s action was unlawful disability discrimination because of your disability. It is then up to a jury to determine whether they believe the employer’s stated reason for its action was not the true reason for its actions.
1. Prima Facie Case of Disability Discrimination – Demotion/Suspension/Termination
You must first establish that you are a member of a protected class, i.e. suffer from a disability. The next step is for you to demonstrate that you performed your job which met your employer’s legitimate expectations. Notwithstanding the fact that you met your employer’s legitimate expectations, you were fired, demoted, suspended or terminated. The next step is to demonstrate that you were later replaced by a person who was not disabled or that you were treated differently than people who did not suffer from a disability, or that the circumstances surrounding your demotion, suspension or termination give rise to an inference that you were terminated based on your disability.
2. Employer’s Reason That Not Based On Disability
This element is met very easily by your employer by providing a reason for your demotion, suspension or termination. Typically the employer will point to various alleged performance issues, skills, or state that you were unable to perform your job.
3. Pretext for Disability Discrimination
You may demonstrate that your employer’s proffered reason for demoting, suspending or terminating you is a mere “pretext” by showing that your disability was more likely than not the motivating factor of the employer. You can also demonstrate this by providing indirect evidence that your employer’s stated reason is not reliable or believable.
If you are able to meet all of the elements mentioned above, you may succeed on a claim of disability discrimination. Please contact Castronovo & McKinney to discuss your possible disability discrimination case and call us at (973) 920-7888 or (646) 755-3781 if you believe you have been discriminated against due to your disability.