Disability discrimination is a relatively new Federal cause of action, dating to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”). If a disabled person can perform the essential functions of her job, she is entitled to reasonable accommodation from her employer. A disability could be any disease, condition, or significant impairment of a life activity. The employer is required to engage in an interactive discussion regarding what accommodations would be reasonable. The ADA also generally bars mandatory physical examinations and other inquiries into an employee’s medical history.
The statute must be considered in conjunction with other Federal employment statutes, such as the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (“ERISA”), which prohibits retaliation against an employee for taking advantage of a benefit or welfare plan such as maternity leave or disability insurance; the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), which guarantees up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave for medical crises or family emergencies; and the Continuing Omnibus Budget Resolution Act (“COBRA”), which requires that employees who leave or are fired from a job must be allowed to stay on the company’s medical insurance plan at cost.
New York State and New York City law provide similar protections against disability discrimination and apply to employers with as few as four employees, in contrast to the ADA, which only applies to employers with 15 or more employees. Our NYC employment lawyers help clients across New York with issues of discrimination based on disability and claims.