Disability Discrimination

Employment Attorney Representing Workers in New York City

Federal and state laws forbid disability discrimination with regard to all aspects of employment, including hiring, assignments, promotions, training, fringe benefits, layoffs, firing, and pay. Harassment on the basis of a disability—such as frequent or severe offensive comments about the disability—is one form of disability discrimination. Emre Polat is a knowledgeable New York City disability discrimination lawyer who can assist both employees and employers.

Disability Discrimination

Disability discrimination happens if a qualified worker with a disability is treated unfavorably in the workplace due to the disability. It also happens when a qualified worker is treated less favorably because they are perceived as having a disability or because they have a history of a disability. For example, if a worker is perceived to have Asperger's Syndrome and not hired, this may be an instance of disability discrimination. Similarly, if a worker has a history of cancer that is currently controlled and is treated but is refused a promotion for that reason, this may also be disability discrimination.

What is considered a disability depends on the law being applied. The federal law prohibiting discrimination is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This law only applies to employers that have at least 15 employees, and the definition of disability has been amended but may still be narrower than state law definitions. Under the ADA, a disability is an impairment that substantially limits an employee's ability to perform one or more major life activities, a record of this type of physical or emotional impairment, or a perception of such an impairment.

The ADA requires employers to give disabled employees reasonable accommodations upon request unless doing so presents an undue hardship. Expense alone is not necessarily a reason to deny a reasonable accommodation, but courts will look at the total circumstances, including the employer's ability to provide the accommodation requested. A disability discrimination attorney in New York City can advise you on whether an accommodation is likely to be considered reasonable.

Reasonable accommodations may include any alteration to the way that things are done on the job to help someone with a disability perform a job, apply for a job, or make use of job benefits and privileges. These might include making a workplace accessible for wheelchair users or giving a blind or hearing-impaired person a device or interpreter to allow them to do the job.

"Disability" and "reasonable accommodation" mean different things under state and city laws as opposed to federal law. Under the New York City Human Rights Law, for example, an employer has a very broad duty to accommodate a disabled employee. There is no requested accommodation under the city law that is considered unreasonable per se. An employer is supposed to interact in good faith with a disabled employee to determine if there is a reasonable accommodation that the employer is able to give that would accommodate the disability. The process should assess both the worker's need and the reasonableness of the request, and it should be ongoing until an accommodation that both parties find reasonable is determined when possible. Generally, under federal law and state laws, an employee has the burden of showing that they can perform crucial job functions with reasonable accommodations, but New York City law does not impose the same burden. The burden under New York City law is shifted to the employer to prove as an affirmative defense that an employee cannot perform essential job tasks with a reasonable accommodation.

The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination also has a broad definition of "disability," which includes physical disability, disfigurement, malformation, infirmity, illness, disease, paralysis, amputation, epilepsy, speech impediments, visual/hearing impairments, blood traits, HIV, and AIDS, as well as a mental disability, psychological disability, or developmental disability that either prevents the normal exercise of a mental or bodily function or can be proven to exist through diagnostic or clinical tests. It applies to all New Jersey businesses, no matter the number of employees.

Explore Your Options with a Disability Discrimination Lawyer in New York City

A disabled worker may be able to bring a discrimination claim on the basis of direct discrimination, harassment, or an employer's failure to provide a reasonable accommodation. These lawsuits require advice and representation from an experienced New York City disability discrimination attorney. Emre Polat is an experienced litigator in both New York and New Jersey, representing employees who have been unfairly discriminated against based on their disability or perceived disability. He represents clients in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island, as well as in Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester Counties and in New Jersey. Call us at (212) 480-4500 or use our online form to set up an appointment. Emre Polat can represent clients who need a wrongful termination lawyer or advice on other types of employment matters.