Can I Be Fired Because Of My Disability?

Anyone who has ever had a job knows how stressful even the best workplaces can be. Deadlines, difficult managers, angry customers, and more are just part of everyday life for most employees in New York. What shouldn’t be part of everyday life is discrimination because of a disability.

Americans With Disabilities Are Protected

employee with permanent disabilityIn 1990, Congress passed the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), which was the first civil law which addressed the needs of people with disabilities and specifically addressed discrimination in the workplace.

According to the ADA, a disability is defined as a physical or mental impairment which prevents the individual from fully participating in major life activities. It protects individuals who have both a history of a disability and those who are perceived to have a disability by their employer, even if they actually don’t.

How Does The ADA Apply To Employment?

Under the ADA, employers may not discriminate against a person who is qualified for a position due to a disability during the hiring process or when determining pay, promotions, training, layoffs, or benefits. An employee can also not be fired because of their disability.

Basically, this means that if a person is capable of doing the essential functions of a job, an employer cannot punish them or treat them differently because of their disability.

Unfortunately, some employers still chose to break the law, terminating an employee illegally.

What Can I Do If I Believe I Was Fired Because Of My Disability?

There are steps that every employee who thinks they may have been fired due to a disability should take. This includes:

  1. Contact An Attorney: It’s important to speak with an attorney immediately because there are strict deadlines that govern filing complaints against an employer who discriminated.
  2. File An Administrative Charge Of Discrimination: This charge is filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and is the first thing that needs to be done if you choose to file a lawsuit against your employer. The EEOC may perform an investigation and may even attempt to provide mediation. During this time period, the employee should request a “right to sue letter” from the EEOC – without one, a lawsuit cannot be filed.
  3. File A Lawsuit: One the right to sue letter is obtained, the plaintiff only has 90 days to file their complaint.  

What Damages Can Be Obtained Through A Disability Discrimination Lawsuit?

If your employer terminated your employment because of a disability, a lawsuit may be able to provide you with damages to cover:

  • The wages and benefits that were lost because of the termination.
  • Out of pocket expenses associated with the loss of the job.
  • Court costs and attorney’s fees.
  • Emotional distress caused by the mistreatment and discrimination.

How Do I Know If I Was Fired Because Of A Disability?

Although there are some employers who are so confident that they won’t be punished for their discriminatory actswheelchair of disabled employee that they openly admit that they fired an employee because of their disability, often, it’s difficult to determine this is why the employee was fired. Our legal team recommends that you speak to an attorney if:

  1. Just prior to being fired, you informed your employer about your disability or requested a reasonable accommodation.
  2. You were treated differently from other employees who did not have disabilities.
  3. During your employment, your employer made rude or biased comments about your disability.

What Is A Reasonable Accommodation?

Under the ADA, a reasonable accommodation is a change made to the workplace which will allow a person with a disability to do their job. For example, a reasonable accommodation for an employee in a wheelchair is a ramp or installing telecommunications for a deaf employee.

What Can I Collect To Help Support My Claim?

There are many things that could potentially help build a strong case. This includes:

  1. Performance Reviews
  2. Medical Records
  3. Personal Timeline (regarding meetings w/ your employer, dates where you experienced mistreatment, etc)
  4. Emails
  5. Co-worker Contact Information

Why Employer Asked Me To Undergo A Physical Exam. Is That Legal?

Prior to making a job offer, an employer cannot request that a potential employee undergo a physical exam. However, they are legally allowed to require that you pass a physical exam as a condition of their employment offer – but only if ALL applicants who are offered a position are also required to pass a physical exam. Once hired, an employer cannot request a medical exam.

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