Under New Jersey and federal law, employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations to disabled workers to allow them to perform their essential job functions. If you have been denied a disability accommodation without a valid reason, it is essential to work with an experienced disability discrimination attorney.
At Castronovo & McKinney, LLC, our practice is dedicated to protecting the rights of disabled workers throughout New Jersey. When you meet with us, we will assess the merits of your case and explore the legal remedies available to you. While disputes over disability accommodations can and should be resolved amicably, we will represent your interests in court if necessary. Contact our office today to arrange a consultation.
Am I Entitled to a Disability Accommodation?
Disabled workers have powerful legal protections under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD). These laws prohibit employment discrimination based on disability and require employers to provide disability accommodations to employees and job applicants unless doing so would cause undue hardship to the employer.
To obtain a disability accommodation, you must notify your employer that an accommodation is needed for a medical reason. If your disability is not obvious, your employer is permitted to ask for medical documentation from your doctor, confirming that your condition requires accommodation.
After you make the request, your employer is required to engage in an informal interactive process to discuss possible accommodations. Your employer is not required to provide a specific accommodation, but rather one that may effectively resolve the limitations caused by your disability. Notably, an employer that fails to take part in the interactive process may be responsible for disability discrimination.
What Exactly Is a Reasonable Accommodation?
A reasonable accommodation involves a modification either to a position or the work environment that helps a disabled individual perform their essential job functions. This includes:
- Adjusting the interview, hiring, or recruiting process
- Reassigning non-essential duties
- Providing special equipment, such as readers or interpreters
- Making the workplace wheelchair accessible
- Allowing time off for medical treatment and/or recovery
- Providing medical leave
- Allowing a disabled employee to work remotely
However, employers are not required to provide accommodations that are not considered reasonable, such as eliminating essential job functions or lowering performance standards.
Ultimately, the purpose of disability accommodations is to provide disabled employees the opportunity to attain the same level of performance as non-disabled employees with similar skills and abilities.
What Are Some Examples of Disability Accommodations?
Types of reasonable accommodations include:
- Modified supervision – This may involve providing written feedback rather than speaking to an employee who communicates more effectively with written material
- Facility modification – An employer can install a ramp in the workplace to make it wheelchair accessible; however, employers are not required to provide personal items, such as a wheelchair or walker
- Equipment modification – A worker who is vision-impaired may need modifications to a computer to enhance screen images to be able to accurately enter and read information
- Restructuring the job – Rather than eliminating essential job functions, a position can be modified to make it more consistent and provide a worker with a cognitive disability with structure
- Reassignment – This may involve reassigning an employee to a vacant position if they can no longer perform the essential functions of their current job
What are essential functions?
Essential job functions are fundamental duties that an employee must be able to perform, with or without an accommodation. Determining whether a job function is essential is based on factors such as:
- The employer’s determination of essential functions in job descriptions prepared before the position is advertised
- Whether the job involves only one function, such as loading and unloading boxes or entering data into a computer
- The experience of non-disabled employees who performs the same job
- The length of time needed to perform the job function
- Whether other employees can perform the function
- Expertise or skill that is required to perform the job
These factors are subjective, however, and may not account for the capabilities of an individual disabled employee.
What is an undue hardship?
As mentioned above, employers are not required to make an accommodation that would cause an undue hardship. To prove this, an employer must be able to demonstrate that the accommodation is too costly or that it would disrupt the workplace. The courts consider several factors to determine whether or not an accommodation poses an undue hardship, such as:
- The type of accommodation
- The cost of the accommodation
- The employer’s financial resources
- The size and structure of the business
- Accommodation costs that were previously incurred
What can I do if my employer refuses to provide me with a disability accommodation?
If your employer has denied a reasonable accommodation and cannot show it would pose an undue hardship, our disability discrimination lawyers can help. Our legal team will conduct an extensive investigation by:
- Collecting evidence (e.g. communications with your employer, personnel records)
- Interviewing witnesses, including supervisors and HR personnel
- Obtaining and reviewing employment policies
- Taking over communications with your employer
- Negotiating with your employer to obtain the accommodation you requested
If your employer refuses to negotiate in good faith, we will take them to court to help you obtain money damages. You can trust us to guide you through the legal process and protect your rights.
Contact Our Experienced New Jersey Disability Accommodation Attorney
Disabled workers can bring value to many businesses and help employers create diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplaces. However, employers that fail to provide reasonable accommodations must be held accountable. The best way to protect your rights is to have the informed representation our firm provides. Contact us today to learn how we can help.
Castronovo & McKinney, LLC helps clients with their disability accommodation claims throughout New Jersey including Bergen County, Essex County, Middlesex County, and Morris County as well as the cities of Hackensack, Newark, New Brunswick, and Morristown.