Both New Jersey state and federal laws prohibit discriminatory behavior toward an employee based on their disability. If you think you have been discriminated against in the workplace because you have a disability, then you should consider contacting an employment law attorney to assert your rights.
Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for a disabled employee to be discriminated against in the workplace, whether they have a physical, mental, perceived, or short-term disability. The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) state that it is illegal to discriminate against or harass employees or potential job applicants because they have a disability, were disabled in the past, or are regarding as having a disability.
An employer needs to provide a reasonable accommodation for any employee or applicant with a disability so that he or she can perform the job to the best of his or her ability. The only exception is if those accommodations would create immense expense or difficulty for the employer. Reasonable accommodations are defined as a modification in the workplace that helps the employee with a disability to do their job duties.
If you have experienced workplace discrimination or refusal to provide reasonable accommodations, the employment law attorneys at The Law Firm of Morgan Rooks, P.C. are ready to hear your case. Contact us at (856) 817-6221 to set up your free consultation. It is important to act quickly as there is a limited amount of time to file Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaints or disability discrimination claims.
Common Examples of Disability Discrimination
Our lawyers have handled numerous disability discrimination cases. Time and time again, we see employers discriminating against individuals with disabilities. Some examples of such discrimination are:
- Not providing reasonable accommodations for the employee with a disability so they can do their job
- Making offensive or inappropriate statements about disability
- Passing someone over for a promotion because they are disabled
- Paying an employee who is disabled less than others doing their same job
- Treating an employee with a disability differently than everyone else
- Denying an employee’s request for time off under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or retaliating against said employee for exercising rights under FMLA
- Outright asking a job applicant if they have a type of disability
- Exhibiting retaliatory behaviors toward an employee if they request an accommodation or receive an accommodation
Types of Reasonable Accommodations
As an employee with a disability, you have the right under the ADA and NJLAD to request that reasonable accommodations be made so you can do your job correctly. Your employer must enter into what is called the interactive process with you, so that, together, you can decide what accommodations can reasonably be made and what options are available to you at your workplace.
Types of reasonable accommodations that should be made include:
- Getting specialized equipment such as a screen reader or documents in large print that help you do your job
- Having other employees do some of the non-essential tasks that were in your job description
- Changing your desk area or your working hours
- Allowing a flexible work schedule
- Reassigning the employee to a vacant position
Your workplace facility should also be ADA and NJLAD compliant. Any building that is public is required to have accessibility standards that the ADA sets forth, and commercial facilities, while they may be privately owned, are also regulated by the ADA.
What You Should Do If You Suspect Disability Discrimination
If you think your employer is discriminating against you because of your disability or a perceived disability, then your first step should be contacting an employment law attorney. They will hear your case and help determine if anything illegal has happened.
In some cases, employees have been wrongfully terminated because they tried to request reasonable accommodations.
Meeting with a lawyer will be the biggest initial step you can take. Once the lawyer determines that you have a viable discrimination case, they will help you determine initial steps to take, such as filing an official complaint. Then they will take over-communicating with your employer and send them a detailed letter describing what they have done and how it was unlawful. Your lawyer will communicate a financial demand to compensate you for the damages that you have suffered because of disability discrimination.
Your employer will then have a chance to respond with a counteroffer, and your lawyer will work skillfully on your behalf to secure the settlement that you deserve. If they cannot settle out of court, then they will be prepared to take your case to court to fight for your rights.
Filing an Official Complaint
A concrete legal step you can take if you’re being discriminated against at work is to file a legal complaint with the help of an attorney. Before filing a discrimination complaint against your employer, it is important to consult your employee handbook. There you will find the mandatory procedures in filing and documenting your official complaint. Do not skip this step. Any further legal action you can take depends on your following company protocol when filing a written complaint with your boss, HR, or anyone in a position of authority. By filing a complaint, you are officially putting your company on notice and giving them a chance to correct the problem and ensure it doesn’t happen again.
Merely filing a complaint does not guarantee recourse. It has to be filed properly, and it must lay out the specific ways you feel the company harmed you. If your complaint is vague and fails to define the action deemed discriminatory or harassing, it may not be accepted. Some of the most common examples of complaints cited include discrimination against disability, gender, race, or religion. Any complaint alleging this type of discrimination or complaint about unpaid wages and overtime is considered “protected activity.” This means an employee can take action without fear of retaliation from their supervisor or employer. If you feel you are being mistreated after filing a complaint, you may take additional legal action by filing a retaliation claim.
Your employer can have an “affirmative defense” against claims of harassment or discrimination in some instances. Through this defense, the employer can avoid liability claims if it can prove that upon receiving the complaint, it took reasonable steps to swiftly correct the illegal discrimination or harassment to prevent it from happening again in the future, and that, in addition, the aggrieved employee did not take advantage of the corrective measures once they were put in place.
Frequently Asked Questions About Disability Discrimination
Unfortunately, we encounter many disability discrimination cases at The Law Firm of Morgan Rooks, P.C., and we are often asked questions about the legal process and other aspects of the case. While an attorney can address all of your individual concerns, we’ve provided answers to few frequently asked questions.
How do I find out what accommodations are considered reasonable?
If you are unsure if the accommodations you requested from your employer are considered reasonable, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has posted detailed guidelines on reasonable accommodations, as well as undue hardship. An undue hardship would be described as something that would cause too much difficulty for your employer or would create too much of a financial burden.
Would I be protected from disability discrimination if I qualify for short-term disability?
If you are on short-term disability and feel that you have been discriminated against, then you should reach out to an employment lawyer so they can hear the details of your case. It is possible that you could be protected from discrimination, depending on the details of the case. For individuals who qualify, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides protected job leave to take care of a serious medical condition.
Is my employer required to sit with me to talk about my disability and my request for accommodations?
Yes, laws do require your employer to sit with you in what is called an “interactive process” so that you and your employer can discuss your request for accommodations to learn the best ways that you can do your job. Remember, your employer is not required to implement everything you ask for, but they should be willing to talk about what they can adjust to make it easier for you, so you do not face undue hardship.
The steps of an interactive process should include the following:
- You need to communicate your need for reasonable accommodation to your employer
- Your employer will need to recognize your request. Some employers will require a doctor’s note to consider the accommodation.
- Give your employer any relevant information that they may need to help determine the reasonability of the accommodation.
- The employer should then explore any possible ideas to help meet that accommodation for you.
- Hopefully, your employer will work with you to choose the best possible accommodations so that it will be easier for you to do your job.
- Next, the accommodation itself should be implemented; your employer may need to provide training if it is a different technology than what you had before. If they delay your training in any way, speak with your human resources department.
- Make sure to monitor your productivity, if possible, so that you can prove the accommodation is helping you if you are asked about it. You may also need new or different accommodations.
Do I have to provide detailed information about my disability?
No, you are not required to provide detailed information about your disability. Your employer can request that reasonable documentation be provided that shows you have a disability and why your accommodations may be needed. If your employer does press for details, you do not have to give those to them. You also do not have to tell them about any medication that you may be taking. The only time they can ask about medical issues is if they have an objective concern related to your ability to perform your job.
Can an employer refuse to hire me based on my disability?
Under the ADA, you are protected in most situations. The only time an employer can refuse to hire you because of a disability is if they believe you being there would be some sort of a direct threat to the organization or safety of other employees. If a reasonable accommodation can be made to hire you, then they cannot deny you employment solely based on your disability.
Contact Our Disability Discrimination Attorneys Today
Throughout New Jersey, our employment attorneys handle disability discrimination cases for many employees who have faced illegal discrimination, simply because they have a type of disability. If you are concerned that your employer has discriminated against you, The Law Firm of Morgan Rooks, P.C. may be able to help. Call us at (856) 817-6221, so we can hear the details about your case and tell you whether or not you may have a legal case. We will work to get you the compensation you deserve for suffering discrimination at your job.