When can a NYC Business Legally Fire a Disabled Employee?

There are many elements to a disability discrimination claim. One of the most critical elements is that the victim must prove that he or she “suffered an adverse employment action” because of a disability. An adverse action includes being fired from a given job.

Judge: Failure to Consult “Job Coach” was Not an ADA Violation

Even where there is some evidence that the employee's disability was a factor in a decision to terminate employment, the employer can still escape legal liability if it can show it had a “legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for the discharge.” For example, a disabled employee who routinely violates established workplace policies can still be fired in spite of his or her condition.

Consider this recent decision from a federal judge here in Manhattan. The plaintiff in this lawsuit, Schneider v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., alleged he was fired from his job as a retail store associate due to his cerebral palsy. The defendant maintained it fired the plaintiff because he received four written warnings, which automatically led to termination under company policy.

During the course of his employment, the plaintiff received advice and assistance from a job coach. The job coach did not work for the defendant. Rather, the job coach worked for a non-profit organization that provides vocational support for persons with disabilities such as the plaintiff. After the defendant fired the plaintiff, he contacted his job coach, who then attempted to meet with the defendant's management on the plaintiff's behalf. The job coach was unable to see the appropriate manager, however, and the plaintiff's termination stood.

The plaintiff subsequently filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which agreed that there was “reasonable cause” to support a disability discrimination claim. This led to the present lawsuit in federal court, which alleged violations of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, as well as New York State and New York City employment discrimination laws.

Unfortunately, the judge overseeing the case granted summary judgment to the defense on all counts. First, the judge said there was no dispute that the plaintiff “engaged in the workplace misconduct” that led to his four warnings. This was sufficient to provide a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for his firing. Second, contrary to the plaintiff's allegations, the defendant was not required to “consult or engage in any discussion with his job coach” about any disciplinary actions taken against him. The ADA requires employers to make certain “reasonable accommodations” for an otherwise qualified employee with a disability. In this case, such an accommodation did not include involving a third-party job coach in the disciplinary process.

Speak with a New York City Disability Discrimination Lawyer Today

If you have reason to suspect your employer is using a disciplinary policy against you unfairly, and that you are actually being targeted due to a disability or other legally protected characteristic, it is in your best interest to speak with a qualified New York employment attorney before matters escalate further. Contact the Law Offices of Mahir S. Nisar at 646.760.6493 today to schedule a consultation with a member of our team.