Disability Discrimination Lawyers
It can often be hard to overcome the bias and stigma associated with a disability or handicap at the workplace. Should disability discrimination occur, you need a lawyer immediately. You have a limited time to bring a claim against your employer. You need help, you need a proactive approach, and you need the right disability discrimination attorney right away. At KM&A, we understand the nuances. We can help.
Legal definition of disability
There is an important distinction between the general and legal definitions of a disability. In Pennsylvania, the laws that protect the disabled in the workplace are the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA). A good disability discrimination lawyer will know if you meet the standard for a disability in the context of these laws. The precise language of these laws requires that you:
- have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity with or without the use of mitigating measures such as medications, wheelchairs, etc.,
- have a record of such impairment, or
- be regarded, or perceived, by your employer as having an impairment.
If you meet the above standard for a disability, you may be protected by ADA and PHRA disability discrimination laws.
Employment disability discrimination identification chart
|Physical Impairment A physical impairment is any physiological disorder or condition, cosmetic disfigurement or anatomical loss affecting one or more of the following body systems:
A mental impairment is any mental or psychological disorder, including:
|Major life Activities
What do courts require to show that the impairment substantially limits a major life activity? Impairment is substantially limiting if it renders a person:
- Unable to perform a major life activity that the average person in the general population can perform; or
- Significantly restricted as to the condition, manner, or duration under which he or she can perform a particular major life activity as compared to the condition, manner, or duration under which the average person in the general population can perform that same major life activity.
Satisfying the legal standard for disability is only a first step. You must also be qualified for your position with your employer. A qualified individual is an individual with a disability who satisfies the requisite skill, experience, education and other job related requirements of the position held or desired by the individual who, with or without reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential functions of such position.
Common forms of discrimination
Statistically, disabled workers who meet the legal standard for a disability commonly experience discrimination related to:
- Inferior assignments
- Lower grade employee status
- Lower employment testing scores
- Company facilities
- Training and apprenticeship programs
- Fringe benefits
- Retirement plans
- Refused disability leave
It is ILLEGAL for employers to discriminate against you in any aspect of above areas.
Employers must provide “reasonable accommodations” for an employee with a disability. Where a reasonable accommodation is sought, the employer has an obligation to engage in an “interactive process” of determining what accommodations can and should be made. A reasonable accommodation is an adjustment an employer makes so that an employee with a disability can perform the essential functions of the job. This may include:
- Allowing the employee to telecommute.
- Modifying equipment or facilities.
- Adjusting the employee’s work schedule or job structure.
- Reassigning the employee to another available position.
- Restructuring the position.
Disability discrimination damages
If your employer has illegally discriminated against you for your disability, you may be owed damages including:
- Back pay
- Front pay
- Differences in pay between your current pay and the pay you could have received if your employer did not illegally discriminate against you
- Pre-judgment and post-judgment interest on the back pay awards
- Compensatory damages (i.e. pain and suffering or mental anguish)
- Punitive damages (meant to punish the employer for intentional disability discrimination)
- Attorneys’ fees and court costs
- Employees may also obtain injunctive relief, such as reinstatement of their job, in appropriate circumstances
Benefits of an attorney
Discrimination cases are often difficult and complex. Each case requires a careful, focused, and thorough evaluation best conducted by a competent attorney who practices employment law. Depending on the particular facts of your situation and your specific goals, we will work with you to negotiate with your employer, file a Charge of Discrimination with the appropriate federal, state or local agency, and represent you in court.
Special note: “regarded as having a disability”
Courts have held that if an employer mistakenly believes that its employee has an impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, even though he or she actually does not, is sufficient to establish a “regarded as disabled” case.
- The Supreme Court of the United States has explained that “a person is ‘regarded as’ disabled within the meaning of the ADA if a covered entity mistakenly believes that the person’s actual, nonlimiting impairment substantially limits one or more major life activities.” Thus, “[a]n employer runs afoul of the ADA when it makes an employment decision based on a physical or mental impairment, real or imagined, that is regarded as substantially limiting a major life activity.”
- Employers run afoul of the ADA when they mistakenly make assumptions about an employee’s medical conditions or symptoms. “A person is regarded as disabled when “(1) a covered entity mistakenly believes that a person has a physical impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, or (2) a covered entity mistakenly believes that an actual, nonlimiting impairment substantially limits one or more major life activities.” In creating this category of disability, the Court asserted that Congress recognized that “society’s accumulated myths and fears about disability and disease are as handicapping as are the physical limitations that flow from actual impairment.”
Ten most common disability claims
The most common disability claims are related to back or spinal injuries. These account for 19.1% of ADA charges. The accommodation most often required for employees with back and spinal injuries is lifting limitations.
- The second most common disability claim under the ADA is psychiatric and/or mental disability. Psychiatric and mental impairments account for 11.7% of the ADA claims and include impairments such as depression, psychological problems, anxiety, post-traumatic stress syndrome and bipolar disorder\manic depression.
- Neurological impairments account for 11% of ADA claims. Epilepsy, severe migraine headaches, and nervous system disorders are examples of neurological impairments.
- Extremity impairments account for 8.1% of ADA charges. Hand and leg impairments and carpal tunnel syndrome (“CTS”) are included in this category of impairments.
- 4.4% of all ADA claims are heart impairment related. When an individual has a heart defect, the accommodation most often required includes restrictions on lifting and strenuous activity.
- Substance abuse accounts for 3.5% of all ADA claims. Substance abuse refers to both alcohol and drug abuse for ADA purposes.
- Diabetes claims account for 3% of all ADA claims. Diabetes is an impairment specifically listed in the legislative history of the ADA as constituting a physical impairment.
- Hearing impairments constitute 3% of ADA claims and include complete deafness and significant hearing loss.
- Vision impairments account for 2.8% of ADA claims. Vision impairments include total blindness and serious vision problems. Accommodations may range from providing reading assistants to purchasing certain equipment.
- 2.6% of ADA claims involve blood disorders, including hepatitis.
Kraemer, Manes & Associates LLC “KM&A” is a law firm serving all of Pennsylvania with our principal offices in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Call KM&A in western Pennsylvania at 412-626-5626 or in eastern Pennsylvania at 215-618-9185. KM&A can be reached by email at email@example.com.