Disability Discrimination

Your employer cannot prohibit you from working, or terminate your employment, because of your disability, so long as you can perform the essential functions of the job.  Beware of disability discrimination in the workplace.

Section 292(21) of the New York State Human Rights Law broadly defines “disability” as

(a) a physical, mental or medical impairment resulting from anatomical, physiological, genetic or neurological conditions which prevents the exercise of a normal bodily function or is demonstrable by medically accepted clinical or laboratory diagnostic techniques or

(b) a record of such an impairment or

(c) a condition regarded by others as such an impairment, provided, however, that in all provisions of this article dealing with employment, the term shall be limited to disabilities which, upon the provision of reasonable accommodations, do not prevent the complainant from performing in a reasonable manner the activities involved in the job or occupation sought or held.

Thus, the New York State Human Rights Law recognizes nearly any physical impairment or illness as a disability.  This includes a condition which impairs a normal bodily function, a record of such a condition, or the perception of such a condition – even if the employee is not disabled.

If your employer terminates you, or takes any adverse action against you, because of your disability, this constitutes unlawful disability discrimination.

In addition, If you need an accommodation, you should begin a dialogue with your employer, backed up by records from your physician, if necessary, indicating the work duties which require accommodation. The employer is required to engage in an interactive dialogue with you, and the employer has a duty to  reasonably accommodate an employee, so long as the accommodation does not unduly burden the employer.  The employee must always be able to perform the essential functions of the job. Consequently, reference to a written job description may be important in determining what accommodations are reasonable.

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