Many people who have disabilities face workplace discrimination. If your employer has taken an adverse employment action against you because of your disability, you may have a valid basis to file a claim against your employer. If you want to assert your legal rights against your employer, you must start by filing a discrimination charge against your employer with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights, or the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission. The attorneys at Swartz Swidler can evaluate your case and advise you on the options that you have.
Common violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act
Employers in all states that have 15 or more employees are covered by the ADA. This federal law prohibits employers from discriminating against applicants and employees based on their real or perceived disabilities. Under this law, employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities to allow them to perform their jobs. If you work for an employer with fewer than 15 employees in New Jersey, the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination applies to all employers in the state, regardless of size.
There are several ways in which you might have a valid claim of disability discrimination under the ADA or state law. You may have a strong claim if your employer treated you differently than other employees because of your real or perceived disability. If you can perform the essential tasks of your job, your employer is prohibited from discriminating against you based on your disability.
If you are the victim of harassment at work because of your disability, you might also have a valid claim. To form the basis of a discrimination claim, the harassment at your job must be pervasive and ongoing enough to create a hostile work environment. Harassment at work is illegal when the conduct is so severe or pervasive that it affects the conditions and terms of your employment.
Another situation that might form the basis of a valid discrimination claim occurs when an employer makes job decisions based on false assumptions about a worker’s disability. For example, if an employer fires a worker after learning that he or she has an anxiety disorder because the employer believes that all people who have mental health issues are dangerous, that would constitute unlawful disability discrimination.
Another common way in which some employers violate the ADA occurs when they refuse to provide reasonable accommodations to their employees. If you need a reasonable accommodation for your job and request it, your employer must provide it unless doing so would cause an undue hardship. Undue hardship is a substantial expense or burden as it relates to your employer’s size and financial resources. If your employer simply refuses to provide a reasonable accommodation even though it would not be unduly burdensome, the refusal is against the law.
There are other ways in which employers might violate the ADA. If you are unsure whether your employer’s conduct violated the state or federal law, the attorneys at Swartz Swidler can assess what happened and explain any legal options that you might have.
What to do when you are discriminated against at work
If you think that you are being discriminated against at your job because of your disability, you should start by raising the issue internally. Review your company’s policy for reporting complaints, and follow it. If there is no policy at your workplace, talk to someone in the human resources department or a supervisor. You should submit your complaint in writing, and save a copy of it.
You are not required to file an internal complaint. However, you might be able to resolve the problem without having to take further action. If your company fails to take proper action in response to your complaint, you will be able to demonstrate that you tried to resolve the problem internally before you filed your discrimination charge.
Filing a discrimination charge
If your employer does not respond to your internal complaint or responds inappropriately, you should consider filing a charge with the EEOC or the agency in your state. The EEOC enforces the federal anti-discrimination laws while the state agency enforces the state’s anti-discrimination laws. Both the state and federal laws require you to try to resolve your discrimination complaint within the administrative agency before you can file a lawsuit in court. The federal or state agency might help you to resolve your complaint so that you can avoid protracted litigation through the court process.
You can file a charge with the EEOC in person at your local office. You will be interviewed and asked to complete a form. You are also allowed to mail a complaint that includes your name and contact information along with that of your employer. You will need to describe what occurred and why you feel that you were the victim of disability discrimination. You will need to sign your complaint. The EEOC will contact you for more information if it is needed.
The EEOC requires you to file a discrimination charge within 180 days of the date that the discrimination occurred. Under the state laws of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, you have 300 days to file your charge. The clock begins running on the last date of discrimination. If you miss the deadline, you will not be able to move forward with your claim.
After your discrimination charge has been received, your employer will be notified and asked to respond. The agency might interview other employers, request documents, and do other things during its investigation. It might try to negotiate a settlement for you or might ask you and your employer to attend a mediation session.
If you are unable to resolve your claim, the agency may send you a right to sue letter. This letter will provide you with information about how and when to file a lawsuit. You must act quickly when you receive this letter because you might only have 90 days to file a lawsuit.
Get help from Swartz Swidler
If you believe that you are the victim of illegal disability discrimination, talk to an experienced employment lawyer at Swartz Swidler. Our attorneys can help you to determine whether your employer violated the state or federal anti-discrimination laws. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation by calling 856.685.7420 or filling out our online contact form.