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What Qualifies as "Disability Discrimination" in New York City?

What Qualifies as “Disability Discrimination” in New York City?

Disability discrimination covers a wide variety of situations where an employer fails to make a “reasonable accommodation” requested by an employee with a physical or mental impairment. Federal, state, and New York City law all hold an employer liable for failure to accommodate when four conditions are met:

  • The plaintiff has a “disability,” as defined by the law.
  • The employer is covered by law and received “notice” of the employee's disability.
  • The employee is capable of performing the “essential functions” of their job, provided he or she receives the “reasonable accommodation.”
  • The employer refused to make said accommodation.

Judge Declines to Dismiss Disability Discrimination Claim Against New York City

What qualifies as a “reasonable accommodation” depends largely on the specific facts of the employee's disability and essential job functions. This is why it is essential when bringing a claim for disability discrimination to be as precise as possible. A court needs to understand your particular situation and what the employer failed to do.

For example, a federal judge in Manhattan recently denied a motion to dismiss in a disability discrimination lawsuit brought against New York City. The plaintiff, who is acting without the assistance of an employment attorney, alleged that her immediate employer, the City's Department of Homeless Services, failed to accommodate her particular disability, which was a knee injury sustained in a car accident. (The plaintiff also sued the City on a number of other grounds, including race and sex discrimination, but those were dismissed by the judge.)

The plaintiff's lawsuit alleged she requested “light duty” as an accommodation for her knee disability. While the Department eventually accommodated her, it took approximately three years from the date of her initial request. During this time, the plaintiff said the Department “denied knowledge of her disability and refused to accept it.” In effect, the City ignored her request for a reasonable accommodation.

The City denied liability and moved to dismiss the disability discrimination charge. The judge ruled the plaintiff could proceed on this issue, however, because at this “early stage of the litigation,” she was entitled to the “benefit of the doubt” with respect to her allegations. In other words, even though the self-represented plaintiff's complaint was “inartfully pleaded,” it nevertheless “sets for sufficient facts to plausibly suggest that [Department] personnel could have taken action to accommodate [the plaintiff's] disability and simply failed to do so.”

Speak With a New York City Disability Discrimination Lawyer Today

Disability discrimination cases are complicated, primarily because they require an intensive, fact-specific inquiry into the circumstances of both the employee's disability and the employer's response (or failure to respond). This is not the type of litigation you want to start without seeking the advice and assistance of a qualified New York City employment law attorney. If you have been the victim of any form of workplace discrimination, contact the Law Offices of Mahir S. Nisar today at 646.760.6493 to schedule a free initial consultation with a member of our team.

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