Handling disability discrimination in New York

In the 1970's public attention was drawn to the fact that disabled Americans were often discriminated against when it came to issues such as housing, employment and transportation. Since that time, advocates for people with disabilities have worked to encourage the passing of comprehensive laws that provide protection to those who struggle with permanent and temporary physical and mental problems.

As a result of their work, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, also known as the ADA, was created and approved by Congress. Under the ADA, employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees because of a disability.

Defining disability

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a disability is classified as a condition that affects the mental or physical abilities of a person. Examples of people who are disabled include:

  • Traumatic brain disorder
  • Cancer or AIDs patients
  • Physical impairment such as deafness or blindness
  • Physical handicap
  • Mental impairment such as having a learning disability

It is also important to note that family members of people who fall under the definition of having a disability are also protected from discrimination under the ADA.

Protection against discrimination

People who have some type of impairment are often able to live productive lives, holding down jobs, keeping a household, and contributing to their communities. However, some employers may not appropriately offer reasonable accommodations disabled workers are entitled to under the ADA, may be illegally demoted or wrongfully terminated. When a disabled employee encounters such actions related to their condition, they have the right to file a complaint.

In January, the EEOC reported that a settlement was reached in a disability discrimination lawsuit brought against a restaurant for the harassment and poor treatment of a prep cook, who happens to be deaf. The company, McCormick & Schmick's Seafood Restaurant Inc., agreed to adhere to ADA guidelines, monitor their workplaces for any instances of discrimination, train their managers and supervisors on ADA principles, and pay the prep cook over $47,000 for lost income.

The worker made a complaint after he was demoted to dishwasher and was mocked by a person in management for being deaf. He was eventually fired after he complained about the discriminatory treatment.

Taking action against discrimination

Every disabled person has the right to a reasonable accommodation for their disability and when an employer fails to provide that person with what they need or shows discriminatory behavior towards that person, than action can be taken. This action may include filing a discriminatory civil lawsuit or a discrimination complaint with the EEOC.

The New York State Department of Labor emphasizes that there are state and federal laws in place to prevent people from being treated differently because they have a disability. People in New York City also have the choice of filing a discrimination complaint with the City, which has the most liberal definition of disability in the nation. If you feel that you have been discriminated against because of your disability, you may benefit from seeking the assistance of a legal professional who understands New York's disability laws.