Best Ohio Disability Discrimination Lawyer Answer: Can I sue if I was fired today when my boss learned I was disabled? How do I get an accommodation at work for my disability? What kind of attorney do I need to sue my employer for disability discrimination?
Our employment discrimination lawyers often are confronted with the same argument from employers when defending a disability discrimination claim: It doesn’t matter what accommodation we give at work, the disabled employee still wouldn’t be able to do the job. And, that is the crux of most disability discrimination claims – that there is a presumption that a blind, deaf, amputee, or otherwise disabled employee is simply destined to fail. So, the employer reasons, why should employers bother waste their time, money, and energy implementing and trying accommodations?
To which, I now respond. Charlotte Brown. I was reading espn.com this weekend when I came across Brown’s story. Brown is an 18 year old senior on the track and field team at Emory Rains High School in Emory, Texas. At the state track meet last week, Brown cleared 11 feet, 6 inches in the pole vault, which was good enough for third place. But, what is the relevance to employment discrimination? Well, Brown is blind. Not just legally blind, where she can see a little. Brown is completely blind. No sight. So, now imagine her racing down the runway, planting the pole in the small box on the end and vaulting herself over the cross bar. According to the ESPN article, Brown’s seeing eye dog does a pre-event walk through with her; she marks her starting point with her chalk container, and then uses a high pitched beeper to help her locate the center of the planting box.
Now, you are you willing to bet against Brown being able to do many jobs with some form of accommodation? I wouldn’t. Does this mean that Brown can do every job with a reasonable accommodation? Of course not.
The thing that caught me the most was when Brown said, “It’s just pole vault to me. I’m not out changing the world jumping over a crossbar.” That’s how most disabled employees view getting to do their job. It is just a job and I just want to be able to do it.
As our employment discrimination attorneys have blogged about before, the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) requires employers to provide a reasonable accommodation to its disabled employees or those disabled individuals that are applying for work. (See Top Disability Discrimination Lawyer Reply: Can I Bring A Service Dog To Work As A Disability Accommodation Under The ADA?; Disability Discrimination: Is Late Arrival A Reasonable ADA Accommodation?; Top Disability Discrimination Lawyer Reply: How Do I Get A Disability Accommodation At Work? Top Disability Discrimination Lawyer: Is It Disability Discrimination If My Job Will Not Accommodate My Anti-Social Disorder?)
The exception to this rule occurs where providing the accommodation to the disabled employee would create an undue hardship on the employer. Typically, an accommodation is any alteration in the work environment or change in the way things are normally done that allows a disability worker to enjoy equal employment opportunities. The ADA, at §1630.2(o) provides the are three basic categories of “reasonable accommodations”:
(i) modifications or adjustments to a job application process that enable a qualified applicant with a disability to be considered for the position such qualified applicant desires; or
(ii) modifications or adjustments to the work environment, or to the manner or circumstances under which the position held or desired is customarily performed, that enable a qualified individual with a disability to perform the essential functions of that position; or
(iii) modifications or adjustments that enable a covered entity’s employee with a disability to enjoy equal benefits and privileges of employment as are enjoyed by its other similarly situated employees without disabilities.
The ADA’s purpose in requiring employers to provide reasonable accommodations is to remove workplace barriers for workers with disabilities that can otherwise do the work. There are a many examples of possible reasonable accommodations that an employer may be required to provide to disabled employees, including job restructuring; part-time or modified work schedules; changing tests, training materials, or policies; providing qualified readers or interpreters; making existing facilities accessible; reassignment to a vacant position; and acquiring or modifying equipment.
In US Airways, Inc. v. Barnett, the United States Supreme Court set forth how courts will determine if an accommodation is reasonable or not:
Many of the lower courts… have reconciled the phrases “reasonable accommodation” and “undue hardship” in a practical way. They have held that a plaintiff/employee (to defeat a defendant/employer’s motion for summary judgment) need only show that an “accommodation” seems reasonable on its face, i. e., ordinarily or in the run of cases. See, e. g., Reed v. LePage Bakeries, Inc., 244 F. 3d 254, 259 (CA1 2001) (plaintiff meets burden on reasonableness by showing that, “at least on the face of things,” the accommodation will be feasible for the employer); Borkowski v. Valley Central School Dist., 63 F. 3d 131, 138 (CA2 1995) (plaintiff satisfies “burden of production” by showing “plausible accommodation”); Barth v. Gelb, 2 F. 3d 1180, 1187 (CADC 1993) (interpreting parallel language in Rehabilitation Act, stating that plaintiff need only show he seeks a “method of accommodation that is reasonable in the run of cases” …
Once the plaintiff has made this showing, the defendant/ employer then must show special (typically case-specific) circumstances that demonstrate undue hardship in the particular circumstances. See Reed, supra, at 258 (“`undue hardship inquiry focuses on the hardships imposed . . . in the context of the particular [employer’s] operations’ “) (quoting Barth, supra, at 1187); Borkowski, supra, at 138 (after plaintiff makes initial showing, burden falls on employer to show that particular accommodation “would cause it to suffer an undue hardship”); Barth, supra, at 1187 (“undue hardship inquiry focuses on the hardships imposed . . . in the context of the particular agency’s operations”).
The moral of this story? Give disabled workers a chance to show that they can do the job. Although Brown doesn’t think that will change the world, I do.
Having to live with a disability is difficult enough without worrying about the effect it may have on your job. If you are disabled or your employer perceives you as being disabled; and you have been fired, wrongfully terminated, discriminated against, demoted, wrongfully disciplined, denied wages, or even think that you might need a disability discrimination lawyer, then call the right attorney to schedule a free and confidential consultation. Call our Ohio employment law attorneys at (216) 291-4744. The best option is not to wait. The Spitz Law Firm, and its attorneys are experienced and dedicated to protecting disabled employees’ rights under ADA and Ohio employment law.
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