An experienced disability discrimination lawyer will protect your rights and dignity.
Need a disability discrimination lawyer due to disability discrimination in the workplace? Living with a disability is hard enough. The last thing you need is an employer who refuses to reasonably accommodate your disability at work. This makes it harder to do your job and is not OK.
United States and Pennsylvania law requires your employer to provide you with a reasonable accommodation. If you believe you are being denied a reasonable accommodation at work, or that you are being discriminated against because of your disability, contact our experienced lawyers for help. You can reach us online or at 888-KITAYLAW for a free consultation.
What is disability discrimination in the workplace?
Disability discrimination in the workplace occurs when your employer discriminates against you because of your disability. Your employer’s duty not to discriminate against you because of your disability applies to all of the following:
- job application procedures
- hiring, promotion, or discharge
- pay and benefits
- job training
- other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment
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In addition, your employer must provide you with a reasonable accommodation if it helps you perform your essential job duties. Your employer’s failure to accommodate you is a form of illegal discrimination. However, this is true only if the accommodation you seek is “reasonable” and does not impose an “undue hardship” on your employer.
An experienced disability discrimination lawyer can help explain whether this applies to your case.
It is also illegal for your current or prospective employer to limit, segregate, or classify you in ways that negatively impact your employment status or opportunities. For example, your employer cannot place you in a position without promotion potential simply because you have a disability. Nor can your current or prospective employer discriminate against you simply because of your relationship or association with a disabled person. In fact, even if you don’t have a disability, it is illegal for your employer to discriminate against you because it perceives you as disabled.
Disability discrimination in the workplace is a complex area of law. Even worse, many employers are unaware of their legal duties toward disabled employees. If you are discriminated against at work because of your disability, speak to an experienced lawyer immediately.
What laws prevent disability discrimination in the workplace?
In Pennsylvania, disability discrimination in the workplace is prohibited by at least two laws: (1) a federal law, called the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”); and (2) a state law, called the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (“PHRA”).
The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) enforces the rules in the ADA. The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (“PHRC”) handles the PHRA. Some places, like Allentown and Philadelphia, have enacted their own laws against disability discrimination in the workplace.
These laws prohibit similar kinds of disability discrimination in the workplace. The biggest difference between the laws is to which employers they apply. For example:
- The ADA applies to employers in Pennsylvania with 15 or more employees.
- The PHRA applies to employers in Pennsylvania with 4 or more employees.
- Employers within towns or cities subject to local laws are usually covered regardless of how many employees they have.
Most likely, at least one of these laws covers your employer and they may not discriminate against people with disabilities. As a result, an experienced disability discrimination lawyer at Kitay Law Offices will be able to determine which laws apply to your case.
What is the ADA law?
Understanding the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is important. Only certain health, mental, or emotional impairments are disabilities under the ADA. To receive ADA protection for a “disability,” your condition must meet very specific criteria.
If you do have a disability, you have a responsibility to follow certain procedures which give your employer an opportunity to accommodate your disability. If you don’t, you may not have a claim for compensation. Finally, there are limits to what your employer may need to do in order to accommodate your disability.
To learn about the requirements that apply to your case, speak with an experienced lawyer at Kitay Law Offices today! For a free consultation, contact us online or call 888-KITAYLAW.
What qualifies as an ADA disability?
Your condition qualifies as an ADA disability if it meets any of the following criteria:
- a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities or major bodily functions;
- a record of a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities or major bodily functions; or
- being regarded as having a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities or major bodily functions
“Major life activities” can include any of the following, plus more:
- caring for oneself
- performing manual tasks
- seeing, hearing, or speaking
- breathing, eating, or sleeping
- sitting, standing, walking, or bending
- learning, thinking, or concentrating
“Major bodily functions” can include any of the following, plus more:
- immune system functions
- cell growth
- digestive, bowel, and bladder functions
- neurological and brain functions
- respiratory and circulatory functions
- endocrine and reproductive functions
Surprisingly, a physical or mental condition need not constantly impair a major life activity to be a disability under the law. Sometimes, even periodic or intermittent conditions (e.g. epilepsy or depression) can be considered disabilities. However, this is true only if a major life activity is substantially impaired when the condition is active.
As a result, what qualifies as an ADA disability is actually a very complex question. Make sure you contact an experienced lawyer at Kitay Law Offices for help. We will review your case and develop a plan to protect your rights. Call 888-KITAYLAW or contact us online for your free consultation.
What is a “reasonable accommodation” under the law?
An accommodation is any change in the way things are ordinarily done that enables a disabled employee to perform his or her job. In order for an accommodation to be “reasonable,” it must be “feasible” or “plausible.” There are many possible reasonable accommodations that an employer may have to provide. These may include:
- making existing facilities accessible;
- job restructuring;
- part-time or modified work schedules;
- additional breaks;
- temporary or intermittent leave;
- acquiring or modifying equipment;
- changing tests, training materials, or policies;
- providing qualified readers or interpreters; and
- reassignment to a vacant position
However, several modifications or adjustments are not considered reasonable accommodations. For example, your employer does not have to eliminate one of your essential job functions. Also, your employer is not required to lower company-wide production standards. Likewise, your employer does not have to provide items that help you perform personal, off-duty activities. For example, your employer is not required to provide you with a prosthetic limb, a wheelchair, eyeglasses, or hearing aids if they are also needed off the job.
Whether the accommodation you need is a reasonable one can be a difficult and confusing issue. Therefore, contact an experienced lawyer at Kitay law Offices immediately. You can reach us online or at 888-KITAYLAW for a free consultation today!
How do I request a reasonable accommodation at work?
To request a workplace accommodation, you must let your employer know that you need a change or adjustment at work because of your medical condition. Importantly, you do not need to mention any laws or specifically ask for a “reasonable accommodation.” Instead, you can use “plain English.” According to the EEOC, the following are examples of requests for a reasonable accommodation:
- Telling your supervisor, “I’m having trouble getting to work at my scheduled starting time because of medical treatments I’m undergoing.”
- You tell your supervisor, “I need six weeks off to get treatment for a back problem.”
- Informing your supervisor that your wheelchair cannot fit under your desk.
All of these are examples of a request for a reasonable accommodation. Importantly, your request does not need to be in writing to be valid. Even if you request an accommodation verbally, your employer is required to timely respond to your request. Regardless of how you request your accommodation, make sure that you relate your request to your medical condition. If you don’t, your employer may not be obligated to respond.
In terms of timing, you can request a reasonable accommodation at any point during the application process or your employment. Your employer cannot deny you an accommodation simply because you did not ask for one earlier. To determine whether your employer has responded properly to your request, contact an experienced lawyer at Kitay Law Offices.
What must my employer do after I request a reasonable accommodation?
Once you request a reasonable accommodation, your employer must promptly engage in the “interactive process.” This is an informal process where you and your employer explore possible effective accommodations. It is illegal for your employer to ignore your clear request for a reasonable accommodation.
During this process, your employer may ask you about your medical condition and how it affects your work performance. Your employer may also ask you to propose some accommodations that might help you do your job. You should take advantage of this opportunity to discuss potential accommodations with your employer. Indeed, the “interactive process” cannot work without your interaction. Critically, your failure to engage in this process may later prevent you from enforcing your legal rights.
If your employer fails to engage in the interactive process, and ignores your request for an accommodation, you should contact an experienced disability discrimination lawyer right away.
Can my employer require medical documentation before granting me a reasonable accommodation?
Yes, but only when your disability or need for an accommodation is not obvious. In such a case, your employer may ask for documentation that proves your disability and/or your limitations. This usually comes in the form of a letter from your treating doctor specifying your condition and how it interferes with your work. Furthermore, your doctor may suggest a reasonable accommodation. On the other hand, your doctor is not required to do so.
Importantly, your employer may only ask for documentation that is needed to establish your disability or your need for a reasonable accommodation. Therefore, your employer cannot ask for documentation that is unrelated to determining your disability and need for an accommodation. This means that, in most cases, your employer cannot request your complete medical records. That’s because they are likely to contain unrelated information.
However, there are two instances when your employer cannot legally ask for documentation. These are: (1) when both your disability and need for reasonable accommodation are obvious; and (2) when you have already provided your employer with sufficient information to show that you have a disability and need a reasonable accommodation. An experienced lawyer at Kitay Law Offices can explain whether your employer has acted appropriately in your case.
Is my employer required to provide me with any reasonable accommodation I want?
As part of the interactive process, you and your employer will discuss various potential reasonable accommodations. Your employer may provide you with any reasonable accommodation as long as it is effective in helping you do your job. If one or more of the proposed accommodations costs more or is more burdensome than the others, your employer may choose the less expensive or burdensome accommodation as long as it is effective. Similarly, when there are two or more effective accommodations, your employer may choose the one that is easier to provide. Generally, your employer has discretion in choosing among effective accommodations.
What is an “undue hardship” under the law?
The ADA and the PHRA both permit your employer to refuse your accommodation request if the accommodation requested would impose an “undue hardship” on your employer. “Undue hardship” means significant difficulty or expense. Whether a specific accommodation imposes an undue hardship will depend on several factors, including:
- the nature and cost of the accommodation;
- the financial and other resources of your employer;
- the number of employees at your work location; and
- the effect of the accommodation on your employer’s operations.
Importantly, undue hardship means not just expensive, but also unduly extensive, substantial, or disruptive. An accommodation that fundamentally alters the nature or operation of the business would also be considered an undue hardship. Your employer must assess on a case-by-case basis whether a particular accommodation would cause undue hardship.
If your employer is claiming that accommodating your disability would cause an undue hardship, you should contact an experienced lawyer at Kitay Law Offices immediately. Call us at 888-KITAYLAW or contact us online for your free consultation!
How to file a disability discrimination lawsuit
The ADA and the PHRA both require disability discrimination victims to file a complaint with the EEOC or the PHRC before going to court. This is called “exhausting administrative remedies.” If you file a disability discrimination complaint with the EEOC in Pennsylvania, it will automatically be filed with the PHRC. The same is true if you file first with the PHRC. While you are not required to have an attorney in order to file the complaint, hiring an experienced disability discrimination lawyer is crucial to your success. Even at this preliminary stage, you must navigate many complex rules and procedures. Therefore, failure to do so can harm your case.
What is the deadline to file a disability discrimination complaint with the EEOC or the PHRC?
To protect your disability discrimination claims under the ADA and the PHRA, you must file a complaint with the EEOC or the PHRC within 180 days of your employer’s negative action. Importantly, this can include your employer’s failure to offer you a reasonable accommodation. Filing your disability discrimination claim with the EEOC means it will automatically be filed with the PHRC, as well. Further, if you first file with the PHRC, it will also be filed with the EEOC.
You can still protect your federal disability discrimination claim under the ADA even if you miss the 180-day deadline. In this circumstance, you must file your complaint with the EEOC within 300 days of your employer’s negative action. Unfortunately, however, you will lose your claim under the PHRA.
Remember, you may lose your claims forever if you miss these deadlines. Therefore, it is important to have an attorney on your side. Speak with an experienced lawyer at Kitay Law Offices to ensure you follow the process correctly.
How long after I file my EEOC or PHRC complaint can I sue my employer in court?
Under the ADA, you must give the EEOC at least 180 days to investigate your complaint. You may request a “Notice of Right to Sue” if the investigation is not completed within that period of time. This letter from the EEOC gives you the right to sue your employer for disability discrimination. Further, you have 90 days after receiving the letter to file your lawsuit. Fortunately, the EEOC maintains a public portal where you can learn more about filing a complaint for disability discrimination.
Pursuing an action through the PHRA requires that you must give the PHRC at least 1 year to investigate your disability discrimination complaint. If not resolved within 1 year, you can immediately file your PHRA disability discrimination claim in court. Importantly, you do not need to receive a Notice of Right to Sue before going to court. Finally, the PHRC has a helpful guide for filing a disability discrimination complaint.
Based on this information, you can see that filing a disability discrimination complaint with the EEOC or PHRC can be a confusing process. Speaking with an experienced disability discrimination lawyer is your first step toward ensuring that you present a strong case.
What compensation can my disability discrimination lawyer get for me?
Your disability discrimination lawyer will work to recover maximum compensation in your case. We refer to this compensation as “damages.” Importantly, you may be eligible to receive three types of damages due to your disability discrimination at work:
- Compensatory – To cover your emotional distress, pain, and the inconvenience you have had to endure
- Punitive – This punishes your employer for intentionally discriminating against you
- Economic – Covers your past wage loss and future lost earnings
In addition, the ADA and the PHRA limit your recoverable damages for disability discrimination in the workplace. While the ADA places no cap on economic damages, it limits the amount of compensatory and punitive damages you can recover based on your employer’s size:
- 15-100 employees: combined limit of $50,000
- 101-200 employees: combined limit of $100,000
- 201-500 employees: combined limit of $200,000
- Over 500 employees: combined limit of $300,000
Further, the PHRA places no limit on economic damages. Also, compensatory damages are unlimited under the PHRA. Unfortunately, however, punitive damages are not allowed under the PHRA. To ensure you recover the appropriate amount and types of damages, you should always consult with a licensed attorney about the specifics of your case.
How long will my disability discrimination case take?
Most often, disability discrimination cases resolve within 2 years. Importantly, each case is different. Some resolve in just a few months and others take years. Remember, how long your disability discrimination will take depends on a number of factors, including:
- How complicated the issues are in your case
- The number of defendants named in the lawsuit
- How many witnesses are involved in the litigation
- Whether insurance coverage is available to cover your disability discrimination claim
- The nature of the damages you claim
- The venue where your lawsuit is filed
- How interested your employer is to settle your case
Importantly, handling your disability discrimination case on your own may make it take much longer to resolve. It is better to avoid that anxiety, confusion, and loss of time. Therefore, ensure your case resolves as quickly as possible by hiring an experienced disability discrimination lawyer. Contact us online or at 888-KITAYLAW for a free consultation.
For more information about your rights at work, especially considering the impact of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, check out our blog.
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