Disability discrimination does not simply refer to refusing to hire someone because they have a permanent impairment. It also means that you cannot lose your job simply because you had surgery and require temporary leave to recover. Indeed, it is expressly forbidden under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) to take an adverse employment action based on a “perceived” disability, i.e. the assumption an employee will be unable to perform the essential functions of their job following medical treatment.
EEOC Sues New York Company That Fired Employee for Needing Hip Replacement
For example, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently sued a commercial truck dealership in upstate New York after it allegedly fired an employee who had hip replacement surgery. The EEOC said the employer refused the employee's request for medical leave and insisted he would be unable to return to work despite later receiving medical clearance to do so.
According to a formal complaint filed by the EEOC on July 27, the employee in this case worked as a truck-parts delivery driver. During the two years of his employment, the EEOC said the employee received “exceptional” performance evaluations from his supervisor. But that apparently changed after the employee required hip replacement surgery to address his severe osteoarthritis. The EEOC noted the employee's condition “caused him severe and sometimes excruciating pain” and limited his ability to walk and lift.
In June of 2015, the employee informed the employer of his intention to have the surgery. He asked for medical leave and said he would be able to resume “the essential functions” of his position after he recovered from the surgery. Instead of granting the employee's request, however, the EEOC said the employer fired him approximately two weeks later.
The employer claimed the employee was fired due to poor performance, specifically “ongoing customer complaints.” But according to the EEOC, there was “no written documentation” of such complaints in the employee's file. The employer's claims flatly contradicted the employee's glowing performance review, which was completed just before his termination.
The EEOC maintains the request for leave was a “reasonable accommodation” that the employer was required to grant under the ADA. By refusing leave and firing the employee instead due to his “perceived” disability, the EEOC alleges the employer acted “with malice and/or reckless indifference” to the employee's “federally protected rights.” It not only deprived the employee of his employment, the EEOC said, but also caused him “emotional pain, suffering, and inconvenience.” Consequently, the EEOC is seeking back pay and benefits for the employee, as well as other unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.
Have You Been a Victim of Disability Discrimination?
Nobody should face the prospect of losing their job simply because he or she needs surgery to treat a serious medical condition. If you are having difficulty obtaining a reasonable accommodation from your employer, you should enlist the help of a qualified New York employment law attorney as soon as possible. Contact the Law Offices of Mahir S. Nisar on Long Island or New York City today if you have been the victim of any kind of employment discrimination.