New Jersey Disability Discrimination Lawyers

Workers with disabilities have the absolute right to the same career opportunities as non-disabled workers. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 prohibits private employers with 15 or more employees and government entities from discriminating against qualified workers with disabilities.

Despite federal and state protections, many employers continue to discriminate against their disabled employees and job candidates. For decades, our New Jersey disability discrimination lawyers at Carcich O’Shea have been fighting for the rights of disabled workers who have been discriminated against, harassed, or denied reasonable accommodations.

What is Disability Discrimination?

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972 protect all workers from discrimination based on age, race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, religion, and national origin, with additional protections under the ADA against disability discrimination.

Employers are strictly prohibited from discriminating against qualified workers at all stages of employment. This includes recruitment, interviewing, hiring, training, assignments, paying, promotion, firing, and providing benefits. Some of the most prevalent forms of disability discrimination in the workplace are:

  • Hiring: Employers cannot refuse qualified job candidates based on a disability, nor are they permitted to ask candidates whether they have a disability before making a job offer, though questions regarding accommodations are permitted for candidates with an obvious disability, such as wheelchair use.
  • Termination: Employers cannot fire or take adverse actions against an employee based on an assumed or real disability, such as reducing salary or benefits, denying earned promotions, or reducing hours.
  • Opportunities: Employers must treat disabled employees no differently than non-disabled ones, negatively impacting promotion or career growth opportunities.
  • Harassment: Negative slurs, derogatory comments, or being treated differently by employers, managers, coworkers, clients, or customers.

What Constitutes a Disability Under New Jersey Law?

New Jersey’s definition of “disability” is broader than deferral laws and includes serious and minor physical, mental, sensory, and developmental disabilities or illnesses. The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) also considers certain conditions such as pregnancy, depression, anxiety, addiction, and varicose veins disabling. Employees without disabilities are protected if their employer assumes, believes, or suspects they have a disability.

There is also a diverse range of temporary or permanent medical conditions and injuries that are considered a protected disability, including cancer, autism, sensory processing issues, diabetes, genetic illnesses, and paralysis, among others.

Who Is Considered Disabled Under the ADA and NJLAD?

Under both laws, a disabled individual is defined as having a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a history or record of impairment, or is perceived as having an impairment by others.

Does a Disability Have to Be Severe to Be Protected?

Under NJLAD, physical or mental impairments do not have to be severe or debilitating to be considered a disability. While a person with blindness, hearing loss, or paralysis is considered disabled, conditions such as learning disabilities, cancer, depression, and anxiety are also considered disabilities and protected.

What Are New Jersey’s Disability Discrimination Laws?

The NJLAD prohibits discrimination against disabled individuals within employment, housing, and public accommodation practices. The NJLAD defines two distinct types of disability discrimination:

  • Disparate Treatment: The employer treated disabled job candidates or employees less favorably than others due to their disability.
  • Failure to Accommodate: The employer acted unreasonably or not in good faith when determining whether a disabled employee’s reasonable accommodation would cause an undue hardship to the employer or the employee’s coworkers.

What Are Reasonable Accommodations?

A reasonable accommodation refers to any modification to a job position or work environment that enables a disabled applicant or employee to access, participate, and perform essential job functions in the same capacity as non-disabled individuals. Common reasonable accommodations include:

  • Job restructuring
  • Modifying work schedules
  • Reassignment to a vacant position
  • Providing adaptive or modified equipment or devices
  • Adjusting or modifying examinations, training materials, or policies
  • Access to qualified readers or interpreters
  • Enlarging the employee’s work area for assistive equipment
  • Creating a handicapped-accessible workstation or relocating to a more accessible workspace
  • Constructing handicapped entrances
  • Accommodating leave for medical care and treatments

Employers are required to consider disabled employees’ needs and provide reasonable accommodations that enable them to successfully complete essential duties, provided the accommodation does not impose undue hardship on the company.

What Claims of Disability Discrimination Can Be Filed in New Jersey?

Both the ADA and NJLAD establish four types of disability discrimination claims you can file in New Jersey, as follows:

  • Treatment: You are discriminated against or treated differently than other employees due to your disability, such as demotion, loss of benefits, or termination.
  • Hostile Work Environment: Comments and conduct by supervisors or other employees regarding your disability or perceived disability, such as derogatory comments, jokes, or making fun of you.
  • Failure to Reasonably Accommodate: Your employer acted unreasonably or not in good faith by ignoring or denying requests for reasonable accommodation.
  • Retaliation: Retaliation for requesting or requiring a reasonable accommodation or having filed a discrimination claim, such as a demotion or being transferred into a position specifically requiring duties incompatible or challenging to perform with your disability.

To establish a case of disability discrimination, you must demonstrate that you are disabled or are perceived to have a disability, are qualified to perform the essential job functions with or without reasonable accommodation, and have suffered an adverse employment action due to your disability.

Is There a Time Limit for Filing a Disability Discrimination Claim?

In New Jersey, the time limit to file a disability discrimination claim depends on whether you are filing under state or federal law.

  • State Law (NJLAD):
    • You have two years from the date of the alleged act of discrimination to file a claim in state court.
  • Federal Law (ADA):
    • If you are filing a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) under the ADA, you must file the charge within 300 days of the alleged discriminatory act.

What Should I Do Am Being Discriminated Against?

You can assert your rights against discrimination by reporting the incidents to a manager or HR department. If no action is taken, you should consult a disability discrimination lawyer and file a complaint with the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights (DCR) or the EEOC. You should also keep a written record documenting each incident, the date, and what you experienced.

How Can a New Jersey Disability Discrimination Lawyer Help Me?

Navigating the complex discrimination laws can be challenging without a knowledgeable and experienced New Jersey disability discrimination lawyer to help advocate for your rights. Some employers do not take employees’ claims seriously until the employee retains legal counsel.

Our lawyers provide the unwavering legal support and guidance needed to navigate the complex claims process. We can fight to secure the compensation you deserve, ensure your employer is held accountable, and enact the necessary policies and procedures in compliance with federal and state discrimination laws.

Our New Jersey Disability Discrimination Lawyers at Carcich O’Shea Help Disabled Employees Fight Back Against Discrimination in the Workplace

Discriminating against disabled employees or applicants is illegal. Federal and state laws protect disabled workers from discrimination in the workplace and entitle them to compensation when their rights are violated. If you are experiencing discrimination at work, our experienced New Jersey disability discrimination lawyers at Carcich O’Shea can help you fight back and hold your employer accountable. Call 201-988-1308 today or contact us online to schedule an initial consultation. Located in Hackensack, New Jersey, we serve clients in Bergen County, Edison County, Essex County, Morris County, and Passaic County.