Articles Posted in Disability Discrimination

There’s a lot that goes into a successful discrimination, harassment, or retaliation action under the New York State Human Rights Law and/or the New York City Human Rights Law. There’s accumulating the necessary evidence, asserting the right claims, and meeting all of the necessary legal and procedural requirements, such as filing before the deadline passes. Ensuring that you’ve “checked” all these “boxes” can seem daunting — even utterly overwhelming — if you’re an everyday worker who’s experienced workplace misconduct. That’s why, if you’ve endured harm from discrimination, harassment, or retaliation, it’s well worth your while to retain the services of an experienced New York employment discrimination lawyer.

A recent case involving one Amazon worker is an example of some of these things, as well as the special circumstances that the COVID-19 pandemic brought about.

The worker, M.F., was an attorney but she also worked as a seasonal shopper for Amazon during the spring of 2020. As the COVID-19 pandemic raged, the shopper became concerned about workplace safety. Allegedly, her bosses did not comply with COVID-19 safety protocols and “mocked, harassed and retaliated against” workers, including M.F., who raised objections to this failure to follow the protocols.

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The COVID-19 pandemic impacted all aspects of life, including people’s work lives. For many, 2020 represented the first time they entered the world of working remotely. Working from home comes with its own unique set of benefits and drawbacks that have been discussed exhaustively over the last two-plus years. Whether you view remote work as a “plus” or a “minus,” it’s important to recognize that your employer can violate anti-discrimination laws if they allow (or prohibit) remote work on an impermissible basis, such as green-lighting it for white workers but turning down Black employees. A knowledgeable New York race discrimination lawyer can help you assess your circumstances to determine if what you experienced was illegal employment discrimination.

Several Black employees of New York City’s Department of Buildings alleged that was exactly what happened to them. The Black workers alleged race-based discrimination across multiple areas, ranging from discipline to promotions to training opportunities to city vehicle usage to overtime opportunities. According to the plaintiffs, specific instances of discriminatory treatment included unwarranted disciplinary write-ups of Black workers, denial of access to city vehicles, and excessive scrutiny of their requests for medical accommodations.

On top of those things, during 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic, two white supervisors allegedly allowed white employees to work from home but forced three of the plaintiffs to work in the office. Furthermore, the supervisors forced one Black employee to share a vehicle with “coworkers who had been exposed to COVID.”

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When you discover you have a disability that qualifies under the law, your employer is required to make a good faith effort to provide a reasonable accommodation for that disability. Sometimes, an employer may ultimately provide you with an accommodation, but only after months of delay and attempts at avoiding accommodating you. In those sorts of scenarios, the employer’s intransigence (even when followed by an ultimate approval) may amount to a refusal to accommodate and, with representation from a knowledgeable New York disability discrimination lawyer, you may be able to take that proof and build a successful Americans With Disabilities Act case.

As an example of this kind of circumstance, there’s the disability discrimination case of R.B., a lawyer in his 50s working in the legal department of a healthcare insurance company headquartered upstate.

In 2018, doctors diagnosed him with “pulmonary and cardiac sarcoidosis.” He underwent surgery to install a pacemaker but that was not enough. In August 2019, doctors placed him on a powerful immunosuppressive drug that required half-day absences from work to administer. According to R.B., both the Deputy General Counsel and the General Counsel began making comments around this time about how the company’s legal department “would benefit from hiring younger attorneys.”

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Incurring a disability after several years on the job can be incredibly frustrating. You’ve worked in your role successfully for many years but now, thanks to a condition over which you have no control, your ability to do your job is impaired. For some of these workers, certain accommodations can allow them to return to productivity. If you’re a worker like that and your employer has denied you the accommodation you need, it’s possible your employer’s decision constitutes illegal disability discrimination. A knowledgeable New York disability discrimination lawyer can help you assess your situation and plot the best path forward.

S.G., a computer specialist for the transit authority, was one of those workers, according to his disability discrimination lawsuit.

He’d held his specialist job since 1999. Several studies have linked jobs with high amounts of keyboard and mouse use with elevated risks of wrist tendonitis, including wrist tenosynovitis. One study showed “a significant 4% increase in risk (hazard ratio) for hand-arm diagnoses for every hour of keying performed per week. A majority of these diagnoses fall in the category of wrist tendonitis.”

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Bias and discrimination have been part of the hiring process for as long as hiring processes have existed. Some employers have recently identified a potential solution: hiring done, not by people, but by AI (artificial intelligence.) It’s the perfect answer, right? Who could be more objective and unbiased than a computer? As the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Justice Department warned employers recently, using AI in hiring may not be a completely foolproof solution, and employers should proceed with caution lest they violate disability discrimination laws. Whether you were rejected by Mr. Smith, Ms. Jones, or Watson the Computer, if you think your disability played a role in that rejection, you need to get in touch with a knowledgeable New York City disability discrimination lawyer.

The guidance document, which came out earlier this month, was the federal response to employers who have begun using software that deploys algorithms and AI in parts of the new employee selection process. Algorithms and AI might be employed, for example, in administering online tests required of applicants, scoring applicants’ resumes, and making decisions about whether a particular applicant has or has not met the job’s required qualifications.

This all sounds pretty straightforward, so how could it be discriminatory? There actually are many different ways. The guidance document cited the example of an employer using “facial and voice analysis technologies” to evaluate applicants. While seemingly innocuous on the surface, this part of the process could have the effect of rejecting a person with a speech impairment, or a person with autism (whose eye contact and facial expressions might differ from those of non-disabled, neurotypical candidates,) even though those applicants with disabilities actually were qualified for the job.

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A few years ago, many news sources covered an array of stories where “zero-tolerance” rules — either in schools or workplaces — yielded unjust, and sometimes absurd, results. What these stories taught was the peril that comes with applying any set of rules too rigorously without discretion, common sense, and sometimes a dose of compassion. When that takes place in an employment setting and the employee harmed is a person with disabilities, that employer’s intractable action may give that worker, with the assistance of an experienced New York City disability discrimination lawyer, a winning discrimination lawsuit under federal, state, or city law.

Consider the disability discrimination case of K.G., a Con Ed employee in Manhattan. At that time, Con Ed required employees to submit to random drug tests. On Dec. 21, 2016, K.G. tested positive for marijuana. Three weeks later, Con Ed fired her, allegedly because its workplace policies called for zero tolerance for the use of illegal drugs among workers who had been with the company for less than six months.

Seems pretty straightforward on those facts, doesn’t it? Con Ed prohibited marijuana use among employees, K.G. used, so the employer was entitled to make the termination, right?

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When you’re a working woman who becomes pregnant, you face many challenges, even if yours is one of the “easiest” pregnancies possible. Those challenges only multiply if your pregnancy comes with complications. Complications may mean that you have special needs, such as requiring more time off from work than you (and perhaps your employer) had originally planned. When complications happen, the law has various protections. Not only can your employer not discriminate against you because of your pregnancy, but your employer also may not discriminate based on your pregnancy-induced disabilities. If your employer does either (or both) of these things, then you may have a legal case under state and/or federal law, so you should contact an experienced New Jersey pregnancy discrimination lawyer about your situation.

T.M. was one of those pregnant women allegedly harmed by workplace discrimination. She applied for a job as an EMS dispatcher. The employer hired her and scheduled a start date. However, five days before that start date, preeclampsia caused T.M.’s doctors to induce her into early labor and deliver her son prematurely.

Preeclampsia is a condition among pregnant women in which they develop hypertension (high blood pressure,) typically after 20 weeks of pregnancy, despite previously having normal blood pressure. It is a common pregnancy complication, occurring in 5-8% of all pregnancies, and occurring at even higher rates among certain communities of color, especially Black and Latina mothers.

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Workplaces are settings where people must find ways to work together if they are to achieve optimal success. Representing the flip side of this, many discrimination and harassment cases arise because of an unreasonable refusal to “work together” with an employee who had a disability. If you were that worker, you are entitled to take legal action and potentially recover substantial compensation for the harm you endured. Get in touch with an experienced New York disability discrimination lawyer today to find out more.

Some years ago, an employment attorney in another state opined that, in a lot of cases, employers find themselves facing discrimination or harassment litigation because of a failure to follow one simple rule: don’t be a schmuck. (The author didn’t say “schmuck,” but you get the point.) This is good advice that too often goes unheeded. Whether it is utterly unnecessary jokes about a worker’s race/sex/ethnicity/religion/etc. or excessive uncooperativeness toward an employee needing a disability accommodation, many cases come to exist because of entirely avoidable violations of the law.

Take, for example, the disability discrimination case of D.B., a stage manager for a major cable sports network. He had a medical condition, exacerbated by working in cold studios, that affected his skin. Indeed, the manager’s direct supervisor allegedly once asked him, in front of a sizable group of people, “What’s wrong with your skin?”

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Disability discrimination in the workplace can occur in many different ways. The disability that makes up the foundation of your lawsuit could be something chronic or, potentially, it could be very temporary. Whatever the particulars, if you’ve suffered disability discrimination on the job, you should contact a knowledgeable New York City disability discrimination lawyer and find out more about your legal options.

Often, in this blog, we look at court cases involving workers harmed by discrimination, so that you can see their circumstances and see how they, like you, may have the potential to achieve success through the legal system.

Sometimes, though, there are cases that are not employment discrimination matters but may still be of potentially massive importance to you as a New York City worker who may need to consider an employment discrimination lawsuit. The recent Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) case of one New York prisoner is an example of this kind of case.

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In civil litigation matters, including discrimination and harassment cases, attorneys make many assertions and arguments. To the ears of non-lawyers, some of those statements can seem extreme or inflammatory when, in actuality, they’re really mundane. At the same time, a lawyer might say something that sounds ordinary or trivial to a layperson that a skilled legal professional would immediately identify as grossly inappropriate and very important. That is just one of the countless reasons why you need an experienced New York discrimination lawyer handling your case.

A seasoned pro will both be able to spot those prejudicial comments and also know what to do about them. And knowing what to do is absolutely essential because, if you don’t take action at the right time, then that misstep may alone be enough to sink your argument, even if the other side said something completely improper.

The recent disability discrimination case of J.H., who was an Iraq War veteran, a sufferer of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and a security worker for a New York State psychiatric center, is a good example. On multiple occasions, the man applied for a promotion but was never successful. A colleague testified that J.H. was denied his promotion because the agency’s decision-makers had doubts about his mental stability after his military service.

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