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Disabilities in the Workplace


Both federal and state laws protect you from discrimination in the workplace based on disability.

The federal law, the Americans with Disabilities Act (referred to as the ADA) makes it illegal for employers with fifteen (15) or more employees to discriminate against qualified individuals with disabilities in the job application process, hiring, firing, advancement, compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment. The ADA provides protections to:

(i) individuals with physical or mental impairments that substantially limit one or more major life activities;

(ii) those with a record of such an impairment; and

(iii) those who are regarded as having such an impairment.

With a more encompassing definition of disability and broader employer coverage, New York State Human Rights Law (referred to as the Human Rights Law) affords even greater protection for employees against disability discrimination than does the ADA. For example, under the Human Rights Law, employers with four (4) or more employees are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of disability in compensation, terms, conditions or privileges of employment and there is no requirement that a disability substantially limit one or more major life activities, as is the case under the ADA.

To be covered under both federal and New York law, a qualified individual must be able to perform the essential functions of the job with or without reasonable accommodation. Employers are required to reasonably accommodate an employee’s known disability if such an accommodation will allow the employee to perform the essential functions of his or her position.

Federal disability discrimination claims under the ADA must first be brought to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the EEOC) before filing a lawsuit. In some states, the deadline for bringing a claim is as short as 180 days from the date of the discriminatory act. In New York, the deadline to bring an ADA claim to the EEOC is 300 days from the date of discrimination.

State claims may be brought in court as late as three (3) years after the date of the adverse employment action. If you wish to proceed through New York's administrative remedy, the New York State Division of Human Rights, you must file your charge of discrimination within one year of the adverse action.

Call Charny & Wheeler for a free telephone consultation to see if you have colorable claims under the federal and state laws.

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