What Laws Apply to Disability Discrimination in New York?
If you work in New York, you are protected from disability discrimination at the workplace by both federal and state law – the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL). If you work in New York City, you have an added layer of protection under the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL).
What are Your Rights?
Discrimination on the basis of disability is illegal. If you have suffered an adverse employment action (e.g., you have been fired, laid off, suspended, subjected to a hostile work environment, demoted, etc.) and you believe that your disability played a role in the decision to take such adverse employment action, you should contact an employment lawyer.
How is a Disability Defined?
Under the ADA, to qualify as “disabled,” a person must have “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual,” have a “record of such an impairment,” or be “regarded as having such an impairment.”
In 2008, the ADA Amendments Act was passed and added the following guidance to how “disability” should be defined such that:
- “The definition of disability in this chapter shall be construed in favor of broad coverage … to the maximum extent permitted by [law].
- “An impairment that substantially limits one major life activity need not limit other major life activities in order to be considered a disability.”
- “An impairment that is episodic or in remission is a disability if it would substantially limit a major life activity when active.”
- “The determination of whether an impairment substantially limits a major life activity shall be made without regard to the ameliorative effects of mitigating measures such as (I) medication, medical supplies, equipment … prosthetics … hearing aids and cochlear implants … mobility devices, or oxygen therapy equipment and supplies; (II) use of assistive technology; (III) reasonable accommodations or auxiliary aids or services; or (IV) learned behavioral or adaptive neurological modifications.”
What is a Major Life Activity?
“[M]ajor life activities include … caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working.”
The term “major life activity” “also includes the operation of a major bodily function, including … functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions.”
What is it to “Be Regarded as Having an Impairment”?
“[a]n individual meets the requirement of ‘being regarded as having such an impairment’ if the individual … has been subjected to [discrimination] … because of an actual or perceived physical or mental impairment whether or not the impairment limits or is perceived to limit a major life activity.”
The NYSHRL defines disability as “ (a) 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 or (b) a record of such an impairment or (c) a condition regarded by others as such an impairment, provided, however, that in all provisions of this article dealing with employment, the term shall be limited to disabilities which, upon the provision of reasonable accommodations, do not prevent the complainant from performing in a reasonable manner the activities involved in the job or occupation sought or held.”
Note that this definition is a bit more limited than the ADA because it requires an employee to show that his or her disability can be reasonably accommodated. On the other hand, the definition is a bit broader in that it does not exclude temporary or transitory conditions.
The NYCHRL offers the broadest definition of disability. Under the NYCHRL, disability is defined as “any physical, medical, mental or psychological impairment, or a history or record of such impairment.”
Physical, Medical, Mental or Psychological Impairment
“Physical, medical, mental, or psychological impairment” is defined as “an impairment of any system of the body; including … neurological … musculoskeletal … sense organs and respiratory organs… cardiovascular … reproductive … digestive and genito-urinary … hemic and lymphatic … immunological … the skin … endocrine system … or a mental or psychological impairment.”
What Damages Are Available?
Plaintiffs can recover damages for the following: reinstatement, compensatory damages (damages to compensate the employee for lost wages), punitive damages (damages to punish the employer for its act(s) of discrimination), injunctive relief (a court order forcing the employer to do – or not do – something), attorneys’ fees (the amount that a Plaintiffs’ attorney would be paid based on a reasonable hourly rate and the amount of time put in by the attorney) and costs (hard costs for litigation, e.g., filing fees, depositions, court costs, photocopies, mail, etc.).
What Other Laws Are at Play?
Wage Payment Laws – Are you sure you are being paid for all of your time worked? Even if you are paid a salary or have a “manager” or “supervisor” title, you may still be entitled to overtime or other wages. The laws at play here are the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the State New York Labor Law (NYLL)
Workers’ Compensation – If you suffered an injury at work, you may have a workers’ compensation claim.
Medical Leave Laws – Certain employees are entitled to unpaid leave under the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). If you suffer an adverse employment action based upon taking or requesting leave (for yourself or a family member), you may have a claim under the FMLA.
What Should You Do?
If you have suffered an adverse employment action, and you believe that it is related to your physical condition and/or disability, you should absolutely call an employment lawyer. We respond to all inquiries within 24 hours and offer free initial consultations. Contact us today.
Granovsky & Sundaresh PLLC Can Help
Granovsky & Sundaresh is a boutique labor and employment law firm with offices in New York City and Cleveland that helps employees with all aspects of employment law. Our practice specializes in discrimination, severance negotiations, employee wages, medical leave and non-compete/non-disclosure agreements. We offer free consultations and have a proven track record of results. If you need help, call us to set up a free consultation today.