In 1990, Congress passed and President George H.W. Bush signed into law the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA was created to eliminate barriers to employment for people with disabilities. Although many American businesses have made great strides to eliminate discrimination against disabled individuals in the nearly 30 years since many others are still not trying hard enough.
The New Jersey disability accommodations lawyers at Zatuchni & Associates provide legal services to workers who have suffered discrimination based on a disability or injuries because an employer refused to make adequate accommodations in the workplace. Contact us to learn more about how we can help.
Our disability accommodations lawyers serve clients throughout New Jersey seeking financial recovery and justice through the legal system.
What Is a Disability?
Under the ADA, the term “disability” means, with respect to an individual:
- A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of the individual;
- A record of such an impairment; or
- Being regarded as having such an impairment.
The kinds of major life activities that can be substantially limited for a disability to exist under the ADA include, but are not limited to, caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, working, and the operation of a major bodily function.
In short, the ADA (and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, for that matter) define disability broadly to cover a wide range of physical, mental, and, in some cases, emotional conditions.
State and Federal Law Prohibit Discrimination on the Basis of Disability
The ADA makes it illegal for an employer to discriminate against a person on the basis of disability in regard to job application procedures, the hiring, advancement, or discharge of employees, employee compensation, job training, or other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment.
Similarly, the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination makes it an unlawful employment practice for an employer, because of the disability of any individual, to:
- Refuse to hire or employ or to bar or to discharge that individual;
- To require that individual to retire; or
- To otherwise discriminate against that individual in compensation or in terms, conditions, or privileges of employment.
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Failure to Make Reasonable Accommodations
As part of its prohibition on disability discrimination, the ADA requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to the known physical or mental limitations of an otherwise qualified individual with a disability who is an applicant or employee. Disability accommodations can include:
- Making existing facilities used by employees readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities;
- Job restructuring, part-time or modified work schedules, or reassignment to a vacant position;
- Acquisition or modification of equipment or devices;
- Appropriate adjustment or modifications of examinations, training materials, or policies;
- The provision of qualified readers or interpreters; and
- Other similar accommodations for individuals with disabilities.
In general, an employer can only escape the requirement to make reasonable disability accommodations if the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the operation of the business. Undue hardship is an action requiring significant difficulty and expense when considered in light of the following factors:
- The accommodation. The nature and cost of the accommodation;
- The workplace. The overall financial resources of the facility or facilities involved in the provision of the reasonable accommodation; the number of persons employed there; the effect on expenses and resources, or the impact of such accommodation on the facility’s operation;
- The employer. The overall financial resources of the employer; the number of employees who work for the employer; the number, type, and location of its facilities; and
- The operations. The type of operations of the employer, including the composition, structure, and functions of the workforce; the geographic separateness, administrative, or fiscal relationship of the facility in question to the employer.
In the past, disability discrimination lawsuits have covered requests for the following accommodations:
- A shorter workweek or different work hours;
- Time off to go to medical appointments;
- Adaptive equipment to make job duties possible or to prevent aggravating existing injuries; and
- Adaptation of job duties or procedures.
If you believe your employer did not make a reasonable effort to accommodate your disability after you requested an accommodation, talk to a New Jersey disability accommodations attorney at our firm to get a professional opinion about how the courts have ruled in cases similar to yours.
Learn more: How Long Does a Discrimination Case Take?
Serious Illness Discrimination
In addition to the protections offered under the ADA and Law Against Discrimination, workers with serious illness are also covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
Under the FMLA, you have the right to return after a certain time to your employer, even if it is to a different job. If you’ve come back from medical leave only to find yourself unemployed, you may be eligible for back and front pay and any related damages. Contact us and talk with an attorney to understand your disability rights.
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