Workplace discrimination based on a disability is illegal. If you are the victim of disability discrimination, you should take action quickly. The Americans with Disabilities Act is a federal law that protects employees and job applicants in all aspects of employment from hiring to termination. New Jersey and Pennsylvania also have state laws that prohibit disability discrimination. The attorneys at Swartz Swidler understand all of the laws that might apply to your situation and can help you to understand the options that might be available to you.
There are several steps that you should take if you believe that you are the victim of disability discrimination at your job. If you are unsure what to do or feel overwhelmed, talk to the attorneys at Swartz Swidler.
Assert your rights against discrimination
When you are facing discrimination based on your disability, you should start by pointing it out to your employer and asserting your rights. Many employers do not understand the ADA or what it requires. Your employer might not understand the effects of your disability on you. If you assert your rights, your employer might want to do right by you after it reads up on the law.
For example, imagine a scenario in which you were turned down for a job that requires substantial driving time because you are in a wheelchair, and the prospective employer thinks that your reliance on a wheelchair will prevent you from driving. You could explain that you are capable of driving for lengthy periods as long as you have access to a specially-equipped vehicle. Your disability entitles you to reasonable accommodation. The employer could allow you to use your own vehicle and reimburse you for its use for work or could add modifications to a company vehicle to meet your needs. In either case, as long as you are qualified for the job with a reasonable accommodation, you should not be turned down for the position based on your disability.
Filing a complaint within your company
After you have explained your rights, your employer might be willing to reconsider its position. If your employer does not change its decision, you might need to complain in a more formal way. When you file a written complaint within your company, it fulfills two purposes.
An internal written complaint provides notice to your company that it needs to correct the issue. Even if your supervisor or manager does not take your problem seriously, upper management or the human resources department might. Filing a written complaint allows that company a chance to do what is right. If the company acts properly, you might successfully resolve the problem quickly without having to file a discrimination charge.
Filing a complaint internally also allows you to create an important record that you attempted to resolve the problem within the company before you were forced to file a discrimination charge. If your internal complaint is not satisfactorily resolved, the fact that your employer failed to take appropriate action can be important to your discrimination charge or eventual lawsuit. It can serve as evidence that you attempted to resolve the situation, and it may expose your employer to potential punitive damages. Punitive damages are meant to punish employers whose actions are egregious. To secure punitive damages, you must be able to show that you gave your employer an opportunity to fix the problem.
Filing a discrimination charge
If your internal complaint is not handled satisfactorily by your employer, you have a right to file a discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights, or the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission. To preserve your rights to sue your employer, you are required to start by filing a discrimination charge with your state or federal administrative agency. If you try to file a lawsuit without filing a discrimination charge, the judge will dismiss your case.
There are strict time limits for filing discrimination charges. In New Jersey and Pennsylvania, you have 300 days to file your charge. If you do not, you will not be able to seek to recover damages for the losses that you have suffered because of the discrimination against you.
After you file your discrimination charge, it will be processed by the agency. As long as you have met all of the procedural requirements, your employer will be asked to respond to your charge. The agency will then complete an investigation and might offer to settle or mediate your case.
In most cases, the agency will issue a right to sue letter to people who file discrimination charges after they have finished investigating the complaints. You must act quickly when you receive a letter. While the agency can choose to litigate the case for you, it rarely will.
Filing a lawsuit
When you receive the right-to-sue letter, you will likely only have 90 days to file a civil complaint against your employer in court. If you have not retained an attorney, this is a good time to do so. Your attorney can help you to meet the filing deadlines and can help you to meet the requirements so your case will not be dismissed by the court. An experienced employment attorney at Swartz Swidler can help you to evaluate your potential claim and to determine whether you should file a lawsuit. If you decide to file a lawsuit, your attorney can help you to draft all of the required paperwork, gather evidence, negotiate with your employer to try to reach a settlement, question witnesses, and argue on your behalf in court. Contact Swartz Swidler to schedule a free consultation by calling us at 856.685.7420 or submitting your information and a description of what happened through our contact form.