Even though diversity is the norm in a place like New York City, discrimination based on disability persists, often in subtle and overlooked ways. Whether through unintentional ignorance or systemic barriers, employees with disabilities often face hurdles that their colleagues do not – but New York City has laws to combat disability discrimination.
Workers with disabilities continue to face discrimination at work across the United States. One recent study found that the employment rate for people without disabilities was 72%, compared to 31% for those with disabilities. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) found that out of a total of nearly 17,000 discrimination charges filed with the agency, 27% involved discrimination based on disability.
Empowerment starts with knowledge. By familiarizing yourself with what disability discrimination looks like, what reasonable accommodations you may be entitled to, and how to document and report discriminatory practices effectively, you can begin to advocate for yourself. An experienced NYC employment discrimination lawyer can help you protect your rights and recover damages for any losses you’ve suffered because of illegal discrimination.
What Qualifies as Disability Discrimination in NYC Workplaces?
Disability discrimination can happen in NYC workplaces when an employee or job applicant with a disability is treated less favorably because of their disability. This covers every aspect of job employment, from hiring to job assignments, promotions, training, pay, and layoffs.
Under federal law, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), it is illegal for employers to discriminate against individuals with disabilities – but this law only applies to companies with 15 or more employees. The good news is that under New York State law and the New York City Human Rights Law, all employers regardless of size must avoid disability discrimination. In addition, these protections apply to independent contractors as well as company employees.
Identifying disability discrimination can prove to be a challenge because this type of behavior is often subtle. Your employer may make derogatory comments about your disability, isolate or exclude you because of your disability, deny you opportunities for advancement solely based on your disability, or refuse to provide reasonable accommodations. These actions are not just unfair but also illegal, with serious consequences.
The impacts of disability discrimination can be profound, affecting not just your career growth but also your mental and emotional well-being. You deserve a respectful workplace without illegal harassment and discrimination, not an exclusive and demoralizing environment that impacts your job satisfaction, productivity, mental health, and career potential.
Examples of Reasonable Accommodations for Disabilities
Under the law, your employer must provide reasonable accommodations to disabled employees who request them. This involves an interactive process of making adjustments or modifications to enable workers with disabilities to effectively fulfill their job duties.
The key to creating a disability-inclusive workplace is to tailor accommodations to each individual’s specific requirements. Examples of reasonable accommodations include:
- Physical Modifications – Adjusting the physical layout of a workspace by installing ramps, modifying restrooms, or providing ergonomic furniture.
- Schedule Flexibility – Allowing flexible working hours or telecommuting options for employees who need to attend medical appointments or manage energy levels.
- Equipment and Technology – Providing assistive technology such as screen reading software for visually impaired employees, hearing loops for those with hearing impairments, or specialized keyboards for those with motor disabilities.
- Job Restructuring – Modifying job duties or redistributing marginal tasks that are difficult for an employee to perform because of their disability.
- Communication Aids – Offering sign language interpreters, providing documents in Braille or large print, or using other communication aids when necessary.
- Transportation Assistance – Supporting disabled employees with challenging commutes by providing parking spaces closer to the building, for example.
- Policy Modifications – Adjusting or modifying workplace policies, procedures, and practices to better accommodate employees with disabilities. This could include allowing more frequent breaks for individuals with certain medical conditions.
- Training and Support – Providing additional training, mentoring, or support to disabled employees to help make performing their job duties more accessible.
- Leaves and Absences – Granting leaves or absence for medical treatment or recovery periods beyond what is covered under standard sick leave policies.
- Workspace Accessibility – Ensuring that workspaces are accessible, including entrances, exits, and paths of travel within the office or worksite.
Employees and independent contractors in New York City have the right to request accommodations that will assist them in better performing their jobs. This process should involve a collaborative process with open communication between the worker and their employer to determine the best accommodation for the circumstances. While NYC employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations to their disabled employees, they do not have to make changes that would cause undue hardship to the operation of the business.
Providing reasonable accommodations is not just a legal requirement but also a step towards creating a more respectful workplace for all. The process acknowledges the value and contributions of disabled workers and helps foster a culture of equality at work.
Documenting and Reporting Disability Discrimination in NYC
If you’re facing disability discrimination at your workplace in New York City, it’s vital to document and report these incidents to protect your rights and seek justice for your losses.
- Keep detailed records of any discriminatory actions or comments, including the date, time, any witnesses, and details of the behavior. Save emails, witness statements, and any communications about your disability or accommodation requests. This documentation is often critical in proving your case.
- Your company should have procedures in place for internally reporting incidents of discrimination. This may involve speaking with your supervisor, human resources, or a designated diversity or inclusion (DEI) officer. You must give your employer the chance to address and fix the issue before taking further steps.
If internal reporting does not resolve the issue, or worse – if you face illegal retaliation in response – you should consider getting external help from an experienced attorney.
New York City has some of the most protective employment discrimination laws in the country, which means that you have rights. Workplace discrimination and harassment can take a heavy toll, but there are resources available to you. An employment lawyer with experience handling discrimination cases can help you file a claim when necessary and recover damages to offset any losses you’ve suffered as a result of your employer’s mistreatment. At Mirza Law, we’re here to fight for you. Contact us now to get started with your free consultation.