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What Rights Do Disabled Workers Have?

disabled worker Are you wondering what rights you have if you have a disability? Can an employer refuse to hire someone with a disability or terminate an employee who develops a disability once they’re employed?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities in the workplace. This includes job applicants, current employees, and former employees. The ADA applies to all employers with 15 or more employees, including state and local government agencies.

What Protections are Provided under the ADA?

The ADA covers a wide range of conditions, including physical or mental impairments that limit one or more major life activities. These activities include:

  • Walking
  • Talking
  • Seeing
  • Hearing
  • Caring for oneself
  • Performing manual tasks
  • Learning

Although the ADA does not explicitly list every single possible impairment, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has published a set of regulations that guide how to determine if an individual is protected under the ADA.

Individuals with disabilities who are qualified for a job and meet the employer’s requirements must receive reasonable accommodations to help them perform their duties. Reasonable accommodations are changes or adjustments to the work environment or the way a job is performed to enable someone with a disability to participate in the application process and/or to perform essential job functions.

What are Reasonable Accommodations?

Some examples of reasonable accommodations include:

  • Providing assistive technology
  • Modifying work schedules or workplace policies
  • Making the workplace accessible for wheelchair users

An employer is not required to make an accommodation if it would create an undue hardship on the business. Undue hardship is an action that requires significant difficulty or expense when considering factors such as cost or impact on company morale or disruption of company operations.

The Americans with Disabilities Act protects disabled workers from discrimination in all aspects of employment. Coverage begins when someone applies for a job and continues throughout the severing of the employee-employer relationship. It also protects those wrongfully terminated from a job.

The ADA covers a wide range of impairments. The law provides guidance on how to determine if an individual receives protection under the act. If you are a qualified individual with a disability, you must receive reasonable accommodations to help you perform your duties. It also protects anyone unfairly refused employment or terminated wrongfully due to their disability.

New York Provides Additional Protection to Workers

In addition to the ADA, New York also protects workers under its State Human Rights Law. This law prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of a disability. It expands the scope of businesses that are prohibited from making hiring or employment decisions based on someone’s disability. Under state law, employers with four or more employees can’t make hiring and termination decisions based on disability.

Additionally, Governor Kathy Hochul recently launched the state’s first annual Disability Rights and Employment Awareness Month Symposium. This followed her signing legislation (S.7578-C/A.8549-C) that enables the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities to establish a voluntary training and certification program for employers that hire people with disabilities. And finally, she signed another law (A.8915-B/S.7746-B) creating a new threshold for what percentage of a preferred source contract must be performed by New Yorkers with disabilities.

To learn more about your rights under the ADA or to speak to someone about your situation, contact Borrelli & Associates, P.L.L.C. to learn more.


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