Combating discrimination against those with disabilities requires a consistent application of the principle of fairness to all and favoritism toward none. This can seem difficult, yet a consistent approach from management can clarify expected conduct and avoid violating legal requirements.
Common Examples of Disability Discrimination
There are several ways that those with disabilities can be discriminated against in and around the workplace. These include:
- Discriminatory hiring practices
- Failure to make reasonable accommodations
- Offensive or derogatory remarks
- Retaliation against those reporting discrimination
- Adverse personnel actions, including denying advancement and/or training opportunities, demotion, or firing
- Culture of tolerance of discriminatory practices in the workplace
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employers from discriminating against employees or applicants with disabilities in all aspects of employment. The law applies to employers with 15 or more employees. Some states, such as New Jersey, passed similar laws that may apply to a protected class of employees, such as the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD).
What Disabilities Are Covered Under ADA Laws?
The ADA defines a disability as one causing physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity, from walking to breathing. Lesser impairments are outside the scope of disability.
Some examples of disabilities include:
- Cerebral Palsy
- Impaired mobility
- Missing limbs
- Bipolar disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
Does the ADA Cover Prior Disabilities?
The ADA covers employees having a disability, as well as those having a history of a disability.
For example, if an employee who has been treated for cancer returns to work, then the employer cannot discriminate against them because of their diagnosis. In addition, if an employer believes a person has a disability but is wrong, then discrimination against the person on the incorrect belief would also be a violation of the ADA.
What Are Reasonable Accommodations Under the ADA?
The ADA also covers those employees qualified to perform a job. They must be able to perform the essential duties and tasks that are fundamental to that job. Qualified employees are entitled to reasonable accommodations, which is an adjustment or modification that allows the employee to do their job.
The limits of accommodation are bound by the realities of an employer’s situation. In other words, they cannot be expected to offer any accommodation that adversely impacts their business or would entail an undue hardship. Determining the degree of hardship is evaluated by factors including:
- The type and cost of the accommodation
- The financial resources of the employer
- The nature of the business, including its size and structure
The accommodation must be decided upon by engaging with the employee to ascertain whether possible adjustments will meet the disabled person’s needs. While the employer is not required to acquiesce to a specific request by an employee, they cannot just choose any accommodation without input from the employee.
How Does an Employer Know an Accommodation is Needed?
The employer is not expected to anticipate the need for accommodation. Disabled employees need to ask the employer for special circumstances based on their disability. This correspondence between the employer and employee must remain confidential.
Burnham Douglass Represents Victims of Disability Discrimination in New Jersey
If you feel you are being discriminated against because of your disability, reach out to the experienced employment lawyers at Burnham Douglass for legal help. We can offer valuable advice on how to proceed in cases of employment discrimination, including those involving disabilities.
Located in Marlton and Northfield, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout all of New Jersey, including Atlantic County, Burlington County, Gloucester County, Mercer County, Salem County and Camden County.