How Can I Tell If I Have A Disability Discrimination Claim In New York?

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Steven Fingerhut - Employment & Labor - Super Lawyers

Answered by: Steven Fingerhut

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Several laws protect disabled citizens in New York, including the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), the New York State Human Rights Law (“NYSHRL), and the New York City Human Rights Law (“NYCHRL”). To bring a disability claim, you must meet the key elements under one of these laws. These laws protect individuals from employment discrimination, housing discrimination, and reasonable accommodation discrimination. 

Although the ADA, NYSHRL, and the NYCHRL share many similarities, they define disability slightly different. Under the ADA, you have a disability if you: 

  • Have a physical, medical or mental impairment that limits some activity of daily living (like seeing, walking or learning); or
  • Have a history of a disability (such as cancer that is currently in remission); or
  • Are believed to have a physical or mental impairment that is not minor or passing (whether or not you have the condition). 

Under the New York law, you must have a mental or physical condition that impairs a body function, which regular medical testing can confirm, and you have a record of such condition, or people believe you to have such a condition.  The NYCHRL provides even more protection and may apply to your claims if you live or work in New York City. 

Employment Discrimination and Disability

People with disabilities face discrimination in many areas of life, including the workplace. Discrimination against someone based on a disability violates the law. Examples of discrimination may include: 

  • Negative comments about the employee’s ability to do the job
  • Negative comments about the employee’s disability
  • Refusing reasonable accommodations
  • Refusing to give time off for medical appointments
  • Bullying or harassing the employee
  • Refusing to hire or promote someone because of their disability

The ADA, New York State Human Rights Law, and New York City Human Rights Law require employers to provide reasonable accommodations to someone with a disability. The law does not require the employer to provide an accommodation if they would undergo an undue hardship, although the employer would have the burden of showing the requested accommodation poses an undue hardship. 

Employers can often accommodate employees for little or no expense. Examples of typical accommodations include:

  • Modified work schedule
  • Modified work environment
  • Accessible workspace and bathrooms
  • Accessible training facilities or equipment 

The required accommodation depends upon the person and the disability. It is important to keep in mind that the employee must be able to perform the essential functions of the job with the accommodations. 

Reasonable Accommodation

The ADA requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities. Prior to the ADA, many New York employees were discriminated against due to disabilities. 

Despite the law, some employers still fail to provide reasonable accommodation or retaliate against disabled employees who seek reasonable accommodation to facilitate their employment. Such retaliation is against the law and can result in employers facing civil sanctions in addition to the penalties for failing to comply with the ADA. 

As a person with a disability, you may face obstacles every day. If you still face discrimination from employers, contact a discrimination attorney to help you fight for your legal rights. 

Disclaimer: The answer is intended to be for informational purposes only. It should not be relied on as legal advice, nor construed as a form of attorney-client relationship.

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