Articles Posted in Disability Discrimination

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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The novel coronavirus, known more officially as SARS-CoV-2 and less officially as “the coronavirus,” has had a devastating impact on New York City and surrounding areas. While the daily number of new cases in New York is decreasing, the virus shows no sign of slowing down in many other parts of the country, even as most states are in the process of “reopening” their economies. The disease is bad enough by itself, but its supposed origins in China have also led to an unfortunate backlash against people perceived to be of Chinese heritage. In practice, this often means anyone who appears to have Asian ancestry, including in New York City. Discrimination, harassment, and worse have occurred in workplaces and in public. The New York City Commission on Human Rights (CHR), which works to prevent discrimination on the basis of race, national origin, and other factors, created a response team in April to address discrimination and harassment related to the pandemic. If you feel you have suffered from discrimination or harassment while at work based on real or perceived national origin, it is prudent that you speak with a New York City national origin discrimination attorney as soon as possible to go over your rights under the law.

Laws Against Race and National Origin Discrimination in the Workplace

The New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) prohibits workplace discrimination based on a person’s “actual or perceived…race…[or] national origin.” N.Y.C. Admin. Code § 8-107(1)(a). This includes terminating someone’s employment, demoting them, denying them shifts or assignments, and other adverse actions, when the sole or primary purpose is that they are a particular race or have a particular national origin.

The coronavirus pandemic involves multiple forms of employment discrimination. The CHR has adopted guidelines from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) related to disability discrimination. The EEOC first published the guidelines in October 2009 in response to the H1N1 pandemic, and later adapted them for COVID-19. The CHR created the response team to look into anti-Asian bias.

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Most U.S. states now allow medical marijuana use to some extent, but marijuana remains strictly controlled under federal law. This creates a dilemma of sorts for employers. Mandatory drug testing is still a feature of many workplaces around the country, but if marijuana use is not always illegal, should it necessarily lead to firing or refusing to hire someone? The New Jersey Supreme Court recently ruled that an individual who was terminated because of lawful medical marijuana use outside of work can bring a disability discrimination claim. New York disability discrimination attorneys have been able to draw on state law to protect their clients since 2014, when the state approved medical marijuana use with express non-discrimination provisions. New York City will soon offer even more protection with a new law banning the use of pre-employment marijuana tests.

Medical Marijuana and Disability Discrimination in New York State

New York State’s Medical Marijuana Program arose from the Compassionate Care Act (CCA), which became law in 2014. The CCA states that “certified patients” have a “disability” for the purposes of state antidiscrimination law. N.Y. Pub. Health L. §§ 3360(3), 3369(2). Under the New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL), employers therefore may not discriminate against an employee or job applicant on the basis of lawful use of medical marijuana. N.Y. Exec. L. §§ 292(21), 296(1)(a).

New York City’s Ban on Pre-Employment Testing

In April 2019, the New York City Council passed a local law amending the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) to prohibit pre-employment testing for marijuana and synthetic tetrahydrocannabinols (THC). See N.Y. Pub. Health L. §§ 3302(21), 3306(d)(21). The new law will become effective on May 10, 2020, one year after it became law.

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