Disability Discrimination

Disability discrimination happens when your employer makes an employment decision based on your disability and not your skills, qualifications, or how well you do your job.

Federal law does not allow companies with 15 or more employees to discriminate on the basis of a disability or perceived disability. The New York State and New York City human rights laws do not allow disability discrimination when you work (or apply to work) at a company that has 4 or more employees.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), if you are qualified and able to do a job, an employer may not consider your disability when deciding to hire, fire, pay, give job assignments, promote, layoff, train, change benefits, or affect any other condition of your employment. The types of disabilities generally covered under the ADA include any impairment that limits a major life activity, like: hearing, seeing, speaking, walking, breathing, doing manual tasks, and learning.

Your employer must make reasonable accommodation for your disability, unless your employer can show that the changes would be too hard or expensive for the company. Reasonable accommodations can include giving you special equipment or devices or modifying equipment, devices, exams, training materials,  work schedules,  job assignments, company policies, and even changing your work station or work location to help you perform your duties.

To know whether you are the victim of disability discrimination you need to look at the facts in your case. Here are some examples of possible disability discrimination:

  • Your co-workers keep talking about your disability in an insulting way and management knows about it and does not take steps to stop them;
  • Your boss does not put in special bathroom facilities that you need, even though you asked for them and they are not too difficult or expensive to provide;
  • It has become painful for you to use a word processor for work because you have developed arthritis, and there is an open phone receptionist position that you are qualified for, but instead of being considered for a transfer to the open position, you get fired;
  • Before a scheduled promotion, you tell your boss that you have diabetes. Your boss assumes that your diabetes will become a problem and gives the promotion to someone else;
  • Big accounts or clients are given to non-disabled workers;
  • You are left out of important meetings in favor of non-disabled workers.

Legal Editor: Davin P. Cellura, January 2015 (updated March 2016)

Changes may occur in this area of law. The information provided is brought to you as a public service with the help and assistance of volunteer legal editors, and is intended to help you better understand the law in general. It is not intended to be legal advice regarding your particular problem or to substitute for the advice of a lawyer.

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