Which disabilities are protected?
There are several different state and federal laws that protect disabled workers from unfair discrimination. However, the laws will only protect you if you are able to able to do the job, with or without a reasonable accommodation. For example, if someone who has poor vision required a larger computer screen in order to do their work, that would normally be considered a reasonable accommodation. However, if someone had trouble seeing even while wearing glasses and could not safely drive a vehicle, an employer could legally refuse to hire that person as a driver.
Requesting a Disability Accommodation
If you have a disability that may potentially affect your work, it is important to ask for a reasonable disability accommodation in writing. If you send an email you can prove that your employer knew about your disability and that you made efforts to seek a reasonable accommodation. It is illegal to fire or punish an employee for requesting a reasonable disability accommodation and your email can be used to prove that a request was made.
Under the ADA, a “reasonable accommodation” includes:
- Making existing facilities used by employees readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities (like a wheelchair ramp)
- Modifying work schedules
- Reassigning a disabled employee to a vacant job that the employee can perform
- Modifying or acquiring equipment
- Modifying tests or testing conditions
- Modifying training materials or policies
- Providing qualified readers or interpreters
- Other similar accommodations.
If you suspect that your employer may be treating you unfairly because of a disability, it may be a good idea to have an attorney send a letter on your behalf so that your employer knows that you have someone on your side to protect your rights.
- The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
- The ADA prohibits discrimination based on disabilities and requires that reasonable workplace accommodations be made for persons with disabilities, so long as such reasonable accommodations do not pose an “undue hardship” on the business operations.
- Under the ADA, a person has a “disability” if they have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, has a record of such impairments, or is regarded as having a disability.
- The ADA also protects workers who have a record of being disabled or are perceived as being disabled by their employer. For example, an employer could not refuse to hire someone because the job applicant had a serious stroke in the past, if the applicant was now capable of doing the job.
- Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA)
- The PHRA prohibits discrimination based on handicap or disability or the use of a guide or support animal because of blindness, deafness or physical handicap.
- “Handicap” or “disability” is defined as “a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more of such person’s major life activities; a record of having such an impairment; or being regarded as having such an impairment, but such term does not include current, illegal use of or addiction to a controlled substance.
- Under the PHRA, a “reasonable accommodation” includes modification of duties, scheduling, amount or nature of training, assistance provided and the like, assuming such modifications do not impose an “undue hardship.”
- New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD)
- The NJLAD prohibits discrimination based on handicap or disability and has its own definitions of “disability,” “reasonable accommodations,” and “undue hardships.”
If you believe you have been discriminated against at work based on your disability or have been the victim of retaliation, call Silver & Silver today for a free consultation at 610-658-0500.