While individuals with disabilities are entitled to the same rights as everyone else, they often experience discrimination in employment, housing, and education, based solely on the fact that they have a disability. Employment discrimination can take many forms, including:
- A workplace with physical barriers that make movement difficult for disabled people.
- Questions during a job interview about medical conditions that are unrelated to the position.
- Requiring a medical exam to obtain employment if other prospective employees are not required to do the same.
- Refusing to provide reasonable accommodations for a disabled employee that would allow them to work.
- Refusing to provide a short leave of absence or intermittent leave because you are ineligible for leave under the Family Medical Leave ACT (FMLA) or the New Jersey Family Leave Act (FLA).
- Being subjected to a hostile work environment.
Fortunately, there are laws both at the federal and state level to protect disabled workers from discrimination. A qualified employment lawyer can provide you with information about which laws apply to your situation.
Definition of a Disability
The legal definition of a disability may vary slightly depending on the statute or regulation being considered. However, under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a person is regarded as disabled if he or she has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits major life activities, such as seeing, walking, talking, or learning. People without disabilities, but who are perceived to be disabled are also protected, as are people with an association with a disabled person, whether the association is personal or for business. The ADA applies to private employers, state, and local government employers, labor unions, and employment agencies with 15 or more employees.
New Jersey Law Against Discrimination
The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) provides added protection against discrimination for many different classes of people. The NJLAD prohibits discrimination based on race, creed, color, national origin, age, ancestry, nationality, marital status, sex, gender identity, disability, military service, sexual orientation, atypical blood trait, genetic information, family status, and source of lawful income. Almost all these categories of discrimination apply in the areas of housing, public accommodation, employment, and credit and contracting, with very few exceptions. The NJLAD applies to all New Jersey private, state, and local government employers with one or more employees.
Under the NJLAD, the definition of disability is broader than the ADA. Courts have extended disability protections to individuals suffering from depression, mental anxiety, and even obesity. New Jersey law also bars pregnancy-based discrimination in employment, and employers are not required to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant women in the workplace.
To be protected from employment disability discrimination, you must be a qualified person with a disability. In other words, you must meet the employer’s qualifications for the job and have the necessary skills, licenses, education, or experience. You should also be able to perform the essential functions of that job with or without reasonable accommodation for your disability. A reasonable accommodation is one that does not cause undue hardship for your employer. If these criteria are met, it is illegal for an employer to exclude a disabled person from applying for a job, to deny a disabled employee training, promotions, or other benefits, or to terminate an employee based on their disability.
There are no magic words that an employee needs to use to request an accommodation. An employee does not need to even use the words accommodation or mention the ADA or ALD. The employee can instead simply make the employer aware that he or she is having problems performing their job duties because of their disability. If you make a request for a reasonable accommodation, your employer has an affirmative obligation to engage in the “interactive process” and to work with you to search for an accommodation that allows you to perform your job successfully Example of reasonable accommodations for disabilities include making facilities easily accessible, modifying work schedules, restructuring the job, modifying equipment, or reassignment to another position.
Atlantic County Employment Discrimination Lawyers at Levine Staller Fight for Workers with Disabilities
If you feel you have been discriminated against in your place of work or as a job applicant based on a disability or perceived disability, the experienced Atlantic County disability discrimination lawyers at Levine, Staller, Sklar, Chan & Brown, P.A. can help. We are committed to defending the rights of the disabled and will work tirelessly to achieve justice and compensation on your behalf. Call 609-348-1300 to schedule a confidential consultation about your case or contact us online. From our offices in Atlantic City, New Jersey, we represent disabled clients throughout the state, including those in Atlantic County, Cape May County, and Ocean County.