Articles Posted in Disability Discrimination

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A recent ruling from the New Jersey Supreme Court represents a very positive, and very crucial, clarification of an element of disability discrimination law in this state. Going forward, employees whose employers improperly failed to accommodate their disabilities can be confident that they do not need proof of a separate adverse employment action to win their cases. Now more than ever, if your employer failed to accommodate your disability, you should take aggressive action and seek out a knowledgeable New Jersey disability discrimination lawyer right away.

M.R., the employee in the case the Supreme Court recently addressed, was a middle school science teacher with type I diabetes. At the start of the 2012-13 school year, she received a schedule she considered problematic. The schedule called for her lunch break to start at 1:05 pm. She asked her principal for an earlier lunch period, fearing that such a late lunch could cause her blood sugar problems. Her schedule was not changed.

One day in March 2013, the teacher suffered a diabetes-induced medical trauma during her last class before lunch. She experienced a seizure and became unconscious. In the related fall, she hit her head on a table and bled extensively.

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Men and women who serve or have served in the military have made many sacrifices. One of the sacrifices members of the military should not have to make is tolerating a workplace with discrimination and harassment. If you are serving or have served, and you are experiencing this type of workplace mistreatment, you may be entitled to a judgment and substantial compensation. You should get in touch with a knowledgeable New Jersey workplace discrimination lawyer right away to discuss your legal options.

K.K. allegedly was one of those service members who did have to endure such mistreatment. According to an nj.com report, he was a Marine who, after leaving military service, became a police officer. However, while serving on a force for a borough in Somerset County, he was on the receiving end of an extensive string of offensive comments and other workplace harassment, according to his lawsuit.

Allegedly, the police chief told K.K., who was injured while serving in Iraq and experienced PTSD as a result, after the latter had performed poorly on a shooting exercise, “if you put your gun in your mouth, you wouldn’t miss.” Again noting K.K.’s poor shooting performance, the chief questioned the quality of K.K.’s military service with alleged taunts such as “I thought Marines could shoot, what … kind of Marine are you?”

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For some jobs, a psychological evaluation may be a mandatory part of the application process. While mental fitness may be an important requirement for some jobs, the law does not allow an employer to use this process – or an employer’s outsourcing of this assessment to outside psychologists – as a means to dodge liability for violations of discrimination law. If you think an employer has done that to you, you should get in touch with a knowledgeable New Jersey employment discrimination lawyer right away.

A recent disability discrimination case from federal court shows how that potentially can happen. C.G., a police officer and a former Marine, was attempting to join the police force in Pittsburgh. He passed the written exam with flying colors. After that, though, he had to complete a psychological examination process and, when two of the three psychologists recommended not hiring C.G., he didn’t get the job.

C.G. had engaged in misconduct as a juvenile but, as his complaint noted, the department had hired others who had engaged in similar youthful misbehavior. The difference, according to C.G., was that he had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

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If your car needs a new timing belt, you need a trained and skilled auto mechanic. If you need an appendectomy, you need a trained and experienced surgeon. Similarly, if you’ve suffered discrimination at work, your legal case is not the right time to attempt a DIY project. You need the aid of a skilled legal advocate. Trying to “go it alone” can not only weaken parts of your case, it can lead to the commission of errors that eventually do fatal harm to your case. Your case is too important to put at risk, so make sure you act promptly in obtaining a knowledgeable New Jersey employment discrimination lawyer.

To back up that point, here is a disability discrimination case that makes for a real-life cautionary tale. The worker, G.W., worked at a mental health and drug rehab center until the center terminated his employment in September 2017.

A year later, G.W. sued in federal court. He alleged many claims, including violations of the Law Against Discrimination, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, and the Family Leave Act.

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Great strides have been made in the last 30 years to eradicate discrimination against people with disabilities. If the proposed version of the Raise the Wage Act of 2021 becomes law, another vestige of legally allowable discrimination against workers with disabilities will be gone, as the law will eliminate the ability of employers to pay people with disabilities subminimum wages. Whenever you think you’ve been the target of disability discrimination at work, you should seek out a knowledgeable New Jersey employment attorney for answers to the questions you have.

The move to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour has been in the headlines a lot recently. The State of New Jersey already has a $15-per-hour minimum wage law on the books. That law makes the state minimum wage $12 per hour for 2021, $13 for 2022, $14 for 2023, and $15 for 2024.

What that state law didn’t do, however, was end the practice of allowing employers to pay people with disabilities subminimum wages. That practice began in 1938 when the federal government enacted the Fair Labor Standards Act, which created the first federally-mandated minimum wage.

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In late November and early December, reports began surfacing that approval of a COVID-19 vaccine might be near and that a ‘massive’ network designed to distribute the vaccine was ready to get millions of doses to Americans. While many may be eagerly anticipating a COVID-19 vaccine, others may be viewing it with a more skeptical eye. Some opposed to getting vaccinated may soon find themselves potentially forced to choose between getting an unwanted vaccine or losing their jobs. For certain New Jerseyans, an employer forcing a mandatory vaccine upon them may represent a violation of the Law Against Discrimination and, with the help of a skilled New Jersey employment discrimination attorney, provide the foundation of a winning civil claim in court.

In several circumstances, an employer that establishes a policy requiring all employees to receive a vaccine may be acting legally under the Law Against Discrimination. Recently, the state legislature passed a law that required all home health care workers, nursing home staff and hospital workers to receive the flu vaccine. By analogy and logical extension, any policy by one of these types of employers to require the COVID-19 vaccine would generally be permissible.

Note those words “several” and “generally” in that preceding paragraph. Whether you work at a hospital, a bank or at a construction site, there are certain situations in which your employer is limited in what it can do. Your employer cannot, for example, make you get a vaccine if you can show that receiving that vaccine would be seriously medically harmful to you. If you have a valid medical exemption and your employer refuses to honor it, that refusal could represent the basis of a winning disability discrimination case in New Jersey.

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“Cancer” is a word that can strike fear in even the bravest of people. Everyone dreads hearing a response from the doctor that starts, “I am detecting a mass and I think we should check it out.” Undergoing cancer treatment, or even just testing for potential cancer, is a serious medical event that can impact every part of your life, both professional and personal. Among all the other fears with which you’ll inevitably have to deal, losing your job due to discrimination shouldn’t be one of them. If that happens to you, be sure to reach out to an experienced New Jersey disability discrimination attorney to discuss your legal options.

W.E., a truck driver from Pennsylvania, was one of those people who had to face those challenges. In late 2015, he underwent surgery to remove a nodule in his left lung (and so that doctors could test the nodule for cancer.) That procedure (and post-operative recovery) forced the trucker to take a two-month leave.

After just a month and a half back at work, the trucker suffered a severe respiratory infection at the end of January 2016, missing several days of work. On Feb. 1, W.E.’s second day back, the employer fired him, so he sued in federal court for disability discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

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Currently, the U.S. Supreme Court is weighing two cases of discrimination allegedly suffered by two Catholic school teachers. A victory by the two teachers could represent a very important success for Catholic school teachers everywhere, including the 7,300+ such educators here in New Jersey, when it comes to being free from insidious employment discrimination. Even if your employer is a religion-based one, you may still be able to sue them and recover valuable compensation for discrimination or harassment you’ve suffered. If you’ve been harmed by age, sex, disability or other forms of discrimination by your religious employer, be sure you consult an experienced New Jersey employment discrimination attorney and investigate your legal options.

A. M.-B., who taught at an elementary school in Hermosa Beach, Cal., was let go at age 65 and sued for age discrimination. K.B., who taught at an elementary school in Torrance, Cal., had her employment ended shortly after she informed her employer that she would need to take medical leave to treat her breast cancer, so she sued for disability discrimination.

Both of these teachers might have had very strong cases if their employers had been private companies or public agencies. For employees like teachers at religious schools, it’s more complicated. The U.S. Supreme Court has said that the government cannot interfere in a religious entity’s decisions about who is or is not employed as a minister of that entity. This “ministerial exception” within discrimination law is rooted in the free exercise of religion clause of the First Amendment.

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Crises often bring out the best in people. Many recent COVID-19 (a/k/a novel coronavirus)-related stories have highlighted countless acts of selflessness to help people working in the healthcare industry, families with food insecurity, seniors and others. Crises also bring out the worst in people, including fear, anger, hate and discrimination. Just as the September 11th attacks brought about a wave of discrimination against people of the Islamic faith and people of Middle Eastern or Arabic heritage, COVID-19 also represents a regrettable opening for discrimination against people with health issues and people of East Asian ancestry. If you have been harmed by COVID-19-related discrimination or harassment at your job, don’t suffer in silence. Reach out to an experienced New Jersey employment attorney for help.

To help minimize incidents of coronavirus-related discrimination, the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights recently published a guidance document entitled “Civil Rights and COVID-19: Frequently Asked Questions.” That document, as it related to employment discrimination, focused primarily on two areas of potential harassment and/or discrimination: disability and race/ethnicity (or national origin.)

When it comes to discrimination or harassment based on disability or perceived disability, improper action related to COVID-19 might look different than other disability discrimination actions in the past, but the underlying concepts are the same. Just as your employer generally cannot fire you simply because your supervisor saw you take a hypertension drug and believes (without any supporting factual evidence) that the stress of the job is “too much” for you, your employer similarly cannot terminate your employment simply because, as the FAQ cited, “you coughed at work and they perceived you to have a disability related to COVID-19.”

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Disability discrimination law exists to ensure that people with physiological and mental health conditions are allowed to compete and participate in the workplace on a level playing field with workers without disabilities. That holds true for workers who are addicts. If a worker with an addiction fails to meet the mandatory minimum obligations of her job, she can still be subject to discipline or termination, just as a worker without disabilities would be. However, the law stands to protect a worker with an addiction who is doing her job – and doing it adequately well – from adverse employment action based solely on the fact that she is an addict. If that has happened to you, do not delay in reaching out to an experienced New Jersey disability discrimination attorney.

Recently, the federal case of S.W. provided an example of an employer who acted within the law. Sixteen months into her employment, S.W. showed up to work intoxicated and was found to have possessed alcohol at her workplace. At that point, the employer became aware that S.W. was an alcoholic. The employer and employee struck a “last chance” agreement that said that S.W. would seek treatment for her alcoholism and, if she violated company policy again with regard to alcohol, she would be fired.

Two and a half years later, S.W. took two absences from work, claiming she has a stomach illness and a car accident, respectively. In reality, S.W. had been hospitalized due to a “several-day drinking binge.” The employer fired S.W.

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