Disability discrimination in the workplace is a violation of federal and state laws. Nonetheless, disabled individuals are often denied job opportunities and other benefits of employment. If you suspect that you have been treated unfairly at work because of your disability, you need a knowledgeable workplace discrimination lawyer at your side.
At Castronovo & McKinney, our employment law practice is dedicated to protecting the rights of disabled workers throughout New Jersey. While some employers recognize the value disabled individuals add to the workplace, many businesses avoid hiring disabled candidates due to inaccurate perceptions about their productivity or reluctance to provide accommodations.
Regardless of their motives, we believe employers should be held to account for taking part in disability discrimination. Our legal team will make the law work for you and fight to protect your employment rights. Contact our Morristown or Manhattan office today to learn how we can help.
How the Law Protects Against Disability Discrimination
It is illegal to discriminate against the disabled in many aspects of their lives – in education, public accommodations, buying or selling property, or employment. In short, disability discrimination occurs when someone is treated less favorably because of their disability than a person without a disability would be treated in the same circumstances.
In an employment setting, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits covered employers (those with 15 or more employees) from making employment decisions (e.g. hiring, promoting, firing) based on a qualified individual’s disability. Under the ADA, a qualified individual is defined as a person who is capable of performing essential job duties. Also, the law defines disability as a physical or mental impairment that limits a person’s ability to perform daily life activities:
- Walking, standing, or sitting
- Seeing, hearing, or speaking
- Performing manual tasks
- Taking care of oneself
The impairment must be impairment to be covered under the ADA; temporary conditions are not considered disabilities.
What Is Disability Discrimination?
There are two forms of discrimination – disparate treatment and failure to accommodate.
Disparate treatment occurs when an individual is treated in a way that adversely impacts his or her opportunities because of an actual or perceived disability. In particular, disparate treatment may involve:
- Refusing to hire a job applicant because of an actual or perceived disability
- Denying a disabled worker the same opportunities – assignments, raises, or promotions – as those who are not disabled
- Disciplining a disabled employee for taking time off to treat a mental or physical condition
- Firing a disabled worker for requesting an accommodation
Disparate treatment discrimination also occurs when an employer (1) perceives or regards an employee as disabled or (2) has an unfair bias against individuals with a particular physical or mental health condition.
Failure to Accommodate
Employers are required to provide reasonable accommodation to disabled individuals that enable them to perform essential job functions. Examples of reasonable accommodation include:
- Modifying the hiring or interview process
- Restructuring job duties
- Reassigning the employee
- Providing equipment, such as readers and interpreters
- Making the workplace wheelchair accessible
- Offering a flexible work schedule
- Granting leaves from work to obtain medical treatment
The ADA requires an employer to engage in an “interactive process” with the employee to assess whether an accommodation is necessary. However, an employer is not required to accommodate a disabled worker if the accommodation poses an undue hardship, meaning that the accommodation is too costly or disruptive to the workplace.
Disabled Employees Have Stronger Legal Protections Under New Jersey Law
Disabled workers and job applicants are also protected against discrimination by the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD). This state anti-discrimination law provides stronger legal protections than the ADA because it applies to all employers, regardless of their number of employees.
Also, the NJLAD has a much broader definition of disability, which includes:
- Physical disability, infirmity, malformation, or disfigurement
- Physical illness or disease
- Visual/hearing impairments
- Speech impediments
- AIDS, HIV infection, and blood traits
This law also defines disability as nonphysical impairments – mental, psychological, or developmental disabilities – that (1) prevent the normal exercise of any bodily or mental functions or 2) can be demonstrated through clinical or diagnostic tests.
Finally, unlike the ADA, it is not necessary to pursue an administrative proceeding before filing a disability discrimination lawsuit.
Why Choose Us?
Whether you have been subjected to an adverse employment action (e.g. fired, demoted), denied a reasonable accommodation, or discriminated against in any other way, we can help. Let our disability discrimination attorneys handle all the details of your claim and fight to protect your rights. While many discrimination cases can be settled, we are well-prepared to provide you with aggressive courtroom representation. Above all, we will fight to help you recover damages, such as:
- Back pay
- Lost benefits
- Liquidated damages
- Pain and suffering
- Attorneys’ fees and court costs
We have a demonstrated track record of success in employment discrimination claims and will leverage our skills and resources to protect your right to earn a living.
Contact Our Experienced New Jersey Disability Discrimination Attorneys
At Castronovo & McKinney, we have a well-deserved reputation as dedicated advocates of the disabled. Trust us to provide you with the compassionate representation you need and the personal attention you deserve. Contact us today.