Best Ohio Disability Discrimination Attorney Answer: Does my boss have the right to fire me based on my disability? Can I sue if my manager makes it difficult for me to work with my disability? What rights do I have at work as a disabled employee?
There are varying degrees of disabilities that affect how workers do their jobs. Many employers and bosses realize that by assisting or accommodating disabled employees, they are gaining a valuable resource that their company may not otherwise have. Unfortunately, there are a lot of bosses, managers, and supervisors that only see disabled employees as a liability and inconvenience. These bad mangers, bosses, and supervisors often discriminate against disabled employees and look for ways to fire them.
Our dedicated employment attorneys at Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm often blog about the employment discrimination and wrongful termination of disabled employees. (See Can I Be Fired If My Disability Causes Me To Fall Asleep At Work?; Can My Boss Fire Me Because He Thinks I Am Disabled?; Can Late Arrival To Work Be A Disability Accommodation?; and My Employer Is Discriminating Against Me Based On My Disability). As or disability discrimination lawyers have discussed, Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA“) protects the rights of individuals with disabilities in the workplace. The ADA applies to private and public employers with fifteen or more employees, and prevents qualified individuals from being denied an opportunity to work because they are disabled.
The provisions of the ADA have been adopted in Ohio through Ohio R.C. 4112.02(A), which states that it is an unlawful discriminatory practice “For any employer, because of the . . . disability . . . of any person, to discharge without just cause, to refuse to hire, or otherwise to discriminate against that person with respect to hire, tenure, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, or any matter directly or indirectly related to employment.”
So what should you do if you suspect your employer fired you because it did not want to change its typical policies and procedures so that you could perform your job duties with your disability? The ADA mandates that employers provide “reasonable accommodations” to an employee with a disability. The ADA defines an accommodation as “any change in the work environment or in the way things are customarily done that enables an individual with a disability to enjoy equal employment opportunities.” But what does this mean in the real world?
A good example is found in a recent case out of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Smith v. Loudoun County Public Schools. In Smith, one of the questions for the Court to resolve involved whether or not Adonia K. Smith, the employee, had requested a reasonable accommodation from her employer. Smith, who is deaf, had requested that the elementary school she taught for provide her with a full-time sign language interpreter. While the school had an interpreter service on-call, recent changes to the curriculum and school policies meant that Smith would need to interact more frequently with her non-hearing impaired coworkers and bosses. Smith also requested a video relay phone to allow her to communicate with others outside her classroom using sign language.
Smith’s requests for a full-time interpreter and a video relay phone were denied by the school. Subsequently, Smith’s contract was not renewed and she lost her job.
The District Court held that a jury could infer that Smith’s employer failed to provide her with a reasonable accommodation, allowing Smith’s reasonable accommodation case to proceed to trial. The key to the Court’s analysis was whether or not providing a deaf employee with full-time access to a sign-language interpreter and a video phone could be considered “reasonable”. Specifically, the Court held:
The ADA’s prohibition of “discriminat[ing] against a qualified individual on the basis of disability” creates liability for employers that fail to make “reasonable accommodations to the known physical or mental limitations of an otherwise qualified individual.” 42 U.S.C. §§ 12112(a), (b)(5)(A). To prove a failure-to-accommodate claim, the plaintiff must show that (1) she has a disability; (2) the employer had notice of her disability; (3) she could perform the essential functions of her job with a reasonable accommodation; and (4) the employer refused to make such a reasonable accommodation. Wilson v. Dollar Gen. Corp., 717 F.3d 337, 345 (4th Cir. 2013). Even if the plaintiff proves a prima facie case, a defendant may avoid liability “if it can show as a matter of law that the proposed accommodation will cause undue hardship in the particular circumstances.” Reyazuddin v. Montgomery Cty., v. Maryland, 780 F.3d 407, 414 (4th Cir. 2015).
The only disputed prima facie element in this case is whether Defendant denied a reasonable accommodation. To survive summary judgment on this point, a plaintiff must “present evidence from which a jury may infer that the [proposed] accommodation is reasonable on its face, i.e., ordinarily or in the run of cases.”Reyazuddin, 789 F.3d at 414. The reasonableness of an accommodation depends on whether it “enables the employee to perform the essential functions of the job in question.” Myers v. Hose, 50 F.3d 278, 283 (4th Cir. 1995). Essential job functions are “functions that bear more than a marginal relationship to the job at issue.” Tyndall v. Nat’l Educ. Ctrs. of Cal., 31 F.3d 209, 213 (4th Cir. 1994). An employer may provide a reasonable accommodation “without providing the exact accommodation that the employee requested.” Reyazuddin, 789 F.3d at 414. In other words, “the law requires an effective accommodation, not the one that is most effective for each employee.”Noll v. Int’l Bus. Machines Corp., 787 F.3d 89, 96 (2d Cir. 2015).
Applying the above principles, the Court finds a genuine dispute as to whether the denial of a daily interpreter and an in-classroom video relay phone was reasonable.
The Court found that these could, in fact, be considered reasonable accommodations, first and foremost because these types of accommodations are commonly made for deaf employees in other employment settings. Further, just having an interpreter service on-call would not allow Smith to perform the essential functions of her job, as these interpreter services often required advance notice of several days while Smith ad to communicate with other teachers and staff on an impromptu basis. The video phone was also not an unreasonable accommodation because Smith’s job required her to communicate with persons outside of the school and, critically, emergency personnel if need be.
Given that these accommodations could certainly be found as reasonable, the Court next focused on the fact that Smith’s employer failed to show that these accommodations would present an undue hardship for the school to enact. The schools did not demonstrate that the costs of hiring a daily interpreter and/or installing a video phone would be so great as to be an undue burden under the terms of the ADA.
Smith’s claim of failure to provide a reasonable accommodation is a good example of what employers must consider to accommodate the disabilities of their employees. Often times, disability discrimination is not as apparent as it was in this case example.
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 866-797-6040. The best option is not to wait. Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm, and its attorneys are experienced and dedicated to protecting disabled employees’ rights under ADA and Ohio employment law.
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