What an Injured Jail Inmate’s Americans with Disabilities Act Lawsuit May Mean for Your New York Workplace Disability Discrimination Case

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.

The prisoner, D.H., was incarcerated at the Westchester County Jail when, one day in 2018, he fell when he stepped on some broken concrete while playing basketball. The accident resulted in D.H. suffering a dislocated knee and torn knee cartilage.

After the injury, D.H. required the assistance of crutches. His jail, however, lacked accessibility ramps and, because he could not navigate the jail’s stairs with his crutches, he could not go outside for recreational activities. On top of that, his disability made it nearly impossible for D.H. to shower inside the jail’s shower facilities.

Eventually, the inmate filed an ADA claim against the county.

Now, you may be wondering, what does an inmate’s problems at his jail have to do with my workplace disability discrimination case? In many situations, that answer might be little or nothing, but this case is one of the exceptions. That’s because, in opposing the inmate’s lawsuit, the county relied on the argument that D.H. did not suffer a qualifying disability under the ADA, so he could not possibly have a valid ADA claim.

The federal Second Circuit Court of Appeals, whose decisions directly impact federal cases in New York, Connecticut, and Vermont, decided that this was incorrect. Even though the condition from which the inmate suffered was a temporary one, that temporariness did not automatically mean that D.H.’s disability was not a qualifying one under the ADA.

2008 Amendments Act Lowered the Standard for a Qualifying Disability

A 2008 Congressional act amended the ADA and broadened the range of disabilities that qualified under the law, stating that even short-term disabilities lasting less than six months can be “substantially limiting” and, therefore, qualifying under the ADA.

Some other federal appeals courts had already embraced a very expansive view of what does or does not constitute a qualifying disability under the ADA, but D.H.’s case was the first time that the Second Circuit court expressly said that this expansive view was the standard for ADA cases in federal courts in New York, Connecticut, and Vermont.

The ruling in D.H.’s case is very significant in that, if you are harmed as a result of disability discrimination at work, you have the potential to sue and win under the ADA, even if your disability was a short-term one.

If you suffer disability discrimination at work in New York City as a result of a short-term disability, you have other legal options outside the ADA that may be even more advantageous. The New York State Human Rights Law contains a definition of a qualifying disability that would appear to be broader than the ADA. It states that a disability is “a physical, mental or medical impairment resulting from anatomical, physiological, genetic or neurological conditions which prevents the exercise of a normal bodily function or is demonstrable by medically accepted clinical or laboratory diagnostic techniques,” a record of such impairment, or “a condition regarded by others as such an impairment.”

The New York City Human Rights Law has its own definition of disability that would appear to be even broader than the NYSHRL’s definition, declaring that a disability is “any physical, medical, mental or psychological impairment, or a history or record of such impairment.”

Of course, deciding whether to pursue an ADA claim, an NYSHRL claim, an NYCHRL claim or all of the above is something that requires a careful understanding of the facts of your case and in-depth knowledge of the law. For the thoughtful and knowledgeable advice you need, and the zealous advocacy you deserve, count on the skilled New York disability discrimination attorneys at Phillips & Associates. Contact us online or at (212) 248-7431 today to set up a free and confidential consultation and find out how we can help you.

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