Everyone is just one accident or illness away from a disability. When a worker has a physical or mental disability, certain accommodations may prove necessary for that person to fulfill the essential functions associated with that position. If such accommodations are not forthcoming after a request to the employer by the employee, the latter may have grounds for a disability discrimination claim.
Under both the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, it is illegal to discriminate against workers with disabilities. The laws touch on most issues regarding employment, including hiring and firing, layoffs, benefits, retirement, and promotions.
By law, both state and federal employers must grant any request from a disabled worker for reasonable accommodations. If the employee’s disability precludes them from reasonably performing their job, or if the accommodation imposes an undue hardship on the business, such accommodation is a different matter. If the extent of the disability means the worker cannot do their job, even if reasonable accommodations are made, they do not fall under the protection of disability discrimination laws. That is because the nature of the disability makes them unqualified for the job.
The Interactive Process
Once a worker makes a request for a reasonable accommodation because of a disability, the worker and the employer must start an interactive process discussing the scope of the issue and what sort of accommodation is necessary. The employer will discuss potential options, and the worker should decide which of these options best suits their needs. The worker, however, does not determine which of these options are available. The employer must offer reasonable accommodations, but if they are offered, the worker cannot pick another option just because they prefer it. Such options must fulfill the employee’s needs without causing undue hardship on the company.
Depending on the nature of the job, potential options for reasonable accommodation may include:
- Lighter duties
- Different assignments
- Sharing the job with another employee
- Equipment modification
- Disability leave
- Unpaid leave
The Hardship Defense
Employers may argue that accommodating an individual worker’s disability creates a hardship for the company. A court will have to study the issue and decide whether the hardship issue is legitimate or that reasonable accommodations were a possibility. Since every disabled worker and job is different, every determination is made on a case-by-case basis.
Filing a Disability Discrimination Claim
If the employer refuses to make reasonable accommodations or even discuss the issue, the worker may have grounds for filing a disability discrimination claim. The employee should first contact an employment lawyer. There are two avenues for filing such claims the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the state’s New Jersey Division on Civil Rights. After filing a claim, both agencies investigate whether the claim has enough merit with which to move forward.
South Jersey Employment Lawyers at The Law Offices of Leo B. Dubler, III, LLC Help Employees with Disabilities
If your employer has not made reasonable accommodations for your disability, call the South Jersey employment lawyers at The Law Offices of Leo B. Dubler, III, LLC at 856-235-7075, or contact us online to schedule a free consultation today. Located in Mount Laurel and Atlantic City, New Jersey we serve clients throughout South Jersey, including Cherry Hill, Burlington County, and Camden County.