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New Jersey Disability Discrimination Law and Workers With Sleep Apnea

Legal News GavelIn the last few months, multiple stories have emerged from New York City in which employees have asserted that they have been the victims of disability discrimination based upon their condition of sleep apnea. These cases are a reminder that disabilities can come in a wide range of varieties. Just because your disability does not involve a wheelchair or some other visible sign of limitation does not mean that it is not enough to trigger the protection of anti-discrimination laws. For advice and advocacy regarding your disability and workplace discrimination, contact a skilled New Jersey discrimination attorney to represent you.

While recent news articles from the New York Post and New York Daily News have focused on New York employees, New Jersey authorities have also faced this issue. Sometimes, the form of discrimination that an employer commits is the failure of the employer to provide the affected employee with a reasonable accommodation. For example, the employee in the Daily News article, a security guard with sleep apnea, sued after his employer allegedly fired him for sleeping during his meal breaks.

Last year, the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office issued a ruling in which it found the existence of probable cause for a hearing on alleged disability discrimination. That case involved the employer’s refusal to let the worker return to the job, as opposed to providing some accommodation like nap breaks. R.B. was diagnosed with sleep apnea and placed on leave from his job as a yard switcher for a trucking company in Port Newark.

The employee went through the required procedural steps to get back to work. He obtained a medical examiner’s certificate that said he was cleared to work. That certificate was valid for one month. The employer said it required a three-month certificate. R.B. eventually got a three-month certificate, but the employer still refused to let him return to the job, asserting alleged safety concerns because R.B. was still undergoing sleep apnea treatment.

The Attorney General’s Office found probable cause for a discrimination hearing because of the employer’s actions. By declaring R.B. unfit to work, the employer “[a]ppears to have ignored the conclusions reached by its medical professionals who performed in-person evaluations before making their assessments.” By doing so, the employer essentially substituted “its judgment for that of the unanimous consensus of medical professionals who examined the employee.” Even if the employer’s alleged safety concerns were sincere and not just pretextual, the law still does not allow an employer to ignore the medical opinions of all the doctors who examined the worker. The employer could have chosen to engage in the interactive process but, in this case, R.B.’s employer never did that.

If you have suffered disability discrimination at your job, whether it is an improper refusal to let you return to work, a wrongful termination or some other erroneous action, retain the skilled New Jersey employment attorneys at Phillips & Associates. Our attorneys have spent countless hours working to help our clients get the fair outcomes they deserve. Reach us online or at (609) 436-9087 today to set up a free and confidential consultation and to find out how we can help you.

More blog posts:

What are My Employer’s Obligations to Provide an Accommodation of My Workplace Disability in New Jersey?, New Jersey Employment Lawyer Blog, June 11, 2018

What Does Illegal Disability Discrimination in the Workplace Look Like According to New Jersey Law?, New Jersey Employment Lawyer Blog, May 31, 2018

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