Disability discrimination occurs when an employer treats a qualified individual unfavorably because of their disability. This treatment can happen during the hiring process or while employed. According to New Jersey law, this form of discrimination is illegal and punishable by law.
Under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD), employers cannot discriminate against individuals based on disability. This law applies to all aspects of employment, including hiring, firing, promotions, training, benefits, and any other term or condition of employment.
Examples of Disability Discrimination
An example of disability discrimination is when an employer refuses to hire a qualified candidate solely because of their disability. Another instance could be an employer denying an employee a promotion or an opportunity for training due to their disability.
Employer’s Duty: Reasonable Accommodations
The NJLAD requires employers to provide reasonable accommodation to employees with disabilities unless doing so would cause undue hardship to the business. Reasonable accommodation refers to modifications or adjustments that enable a disabled person to perform essential job functions.
Reasonable accommodation can take various forms, depending on the individual’s disability and the job requirements. For example, reasonable accommodation might include providing a sign language interpreter during meetings for an employee with a hearing impairment. For an employee with a physical disability, it could mean modifying the workspace to make it wheelchair accessible. Here are some detailed examples:
- During the hiring process: An applicant with a physical disability may require the interview to be conducted in a wheelchair-accessible location. The employer could arrange the interview in such a location or provide a ramp or lift if the usual interview room is not on the ground floor.
- Employee with visual impairment: An employee with a visual impairment may need software that converts text on a screen into speech or Braille. This type of software, known as a screen reader, would allow the employee to perform their job duties effectively.
- Employee with hearing impairment: An employee with a hearing impairment might need a sign language interpreter for important meetings or training sessions. The employer could arrange an interpreter or use a video relay service if an in-person interpreter is unavailable.
Companies are not required to provide a reasonable accommodation if it requires undue hardship. Here is what that might look like:
- If an applicant requires the entire office to be restructured to accommodate their disability, this could constitute an undue hardship. The cost of such extensive modifications, especially for a small business, may be prohibitive.
- If an employee needs a very specialized and expensive piece of equipment that is not essential for performing their job duties, the cost of purchasing and maintaining this equipment could create an undue hardship for the employer.
- If an employee requires a personal aide during work hours to assist with personal needs unrelated to job functions, such as eating or using the restroom, providing such an aide could be considered an undue hardship. Employers are generally not required to provide personal items or services as accommodations.
What Should I Do if I Have Experienced Disability Discrimination at Work?
If you believe you have been discriminated against because of your disability, you have several options under New Jersey law:
- File a complaint with the company: If your employer has an Equal Employment Opportunity Officer or a procedure for handling discrimination complaints, file a complaint first.
- File a complaint with the Division on Civil Rights (DCR): If your employer does not address your complaint satisfactorily, or if you prefer, you can file a complaint directly with the DCR within 180 days of the discriminatory act.
- File a lawsuit: You also have the option to file a lawsuit in the Superior Court of New Jersey. You do not need to file a complaint with the DCR before court.
Our South Jersey Workplace Discrimination Lawyers at The Law Offices of Leo B. Dubler, III, LLC Can Help
You have rights worth protecting. If you have faced disability discrimination at work, speak with our South Jersey workplace discrimination lawyers at The Law Offices of Leo B. Dubler, III, LLC. Call us at 856-235-7075 or contact us online to schedule your free consultation. Located in Mount Laurel and Atlantic City, New Jersey, we proudly serve clients in South Jersey, including Cherry Hill, Burlington County, and Camden County.