I Am Disabled. Is My Employer In New Jersey Required To Accommodate Me Or My Disability?
Facing the challenges of a disability every day in a workplace indifferent or even hostile to your needs is a harsh reality countless people experience. This article explores the intersection of these unique struggles and New Jersey law. Continue reading to find out:
- What accommodations does New Jersey require that employers make to the limitations of workers or job seekers who have disabilities?
- How do New Jersey laws prohibiting discrimination in employment define physical disabilities and non-physical disabilities?
- What is a “reasonable” accommodation?
Yes, your employer in New Jersey is required to reasonably accommodate your disability.
Laws requiring employers to reasonably accommodate workers’ disabilities consist of federal laws (that is, laws that govern the entire country) and New Jersey laws.
An Employer’s Duty, In New Jersey, To Reasonably Accommodate the Limitations Of A Disabled Worker Or Applicant
Under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, employers with 15 or more employees are required to make reasonable accommodations to the known physical or mental limitations of an otherwise qualified applicant or employee with a disability, unless the employer can demonstrate that the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the operation of the employer’s business.
Similarly, in New Jersey, all employers must make a reasonable accommodation to the limitations of an employee or applicant who is a person with a disability, unless the employer can demonstrate that the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the operation of its business.
Employers in New Jersey must consider the possibility of reasonable accommodation before firing, demoting or refusing to hire or promote an individual with a disability on the grounds that his or her disability precludes job performance.
In the Garden State, in determining whether an accommodation would impose undue hardship on the operation of an employer’s business, factors to be considered include:
- The overall size of the employer’s business with respect to the number of workers, number and type of facilities, and size of budget;
- The type of the employer’s operations, including the composition and structure of the employer’s workforce;
- The nature and cost of the accommodation needed, taking into consideration the availability of tax credits and deductions and/or outside funding; and
- The extent to which accommodation would involve waiver of an essential requirement of a job as opposed to a tangential or non-business necessity requirement.
In New Jersey, under circumstances where the accommodation will not impose an undue hardship on the operation of an employer’s business, instances of reasonable accommodation may include:
- Making facilities used by employees readily accessible and usable by individuals with disabilities;
- Job restructuring, part-time or modified work schedules or leaves of absence;
- Acquisition or modification of equipment or devices; and
- Job reassignment and other similar actions.
An Employer’s Duty, In New Jersey, To Engage In An Interactive Process
In New Jersey, an employee’s request for an accommodation triggers an interactive process. Once the employee makes clear that he or she is requesting assistance for his handicap, the employer has an obligation to initiate an informal interactive process with the employee to determine the appropriate accommodation.
What Is A “Disability” For Purposes Of An Employer’s Duty, In New Jersey, To Reasonably Accommodate?
The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (the “NJLAD”) is New Jersey’s statute prohibiting discrimination (including disability discrimination) in employment. The NJLAD categorizes disabilities as either physical or non-physical.
Under the NJLAD, physical disabilities include any physical or sensory disability, infirmity, malformation, or disfigurement which is caused by bodily injury, birth defect, or illness, including epilepsy and other seizure disorders. Physical disabilities include, but are not limited to, paralysis, amputation, lack of physical coordination, blindness or visual impairment, deafness or hearing impairment, muteness or speech impairment, or physical reliance on a service or guide dog, wheelchair, or other remedial appliance or device.
In New Jersey, an individual is considered non-physically disabled if he or she suffers from any mental, psychological, or developmental disability, including autism spectrum disorders, which (1) results from anatomical, psychological, physiological, or neurological conditions, and which (2) either (a) prevents the typical exercise of any bodily or mental functions or (b) is demonstrable, medically or psychologically, by accepted clinical or laboratory diagnostic techniques.
Under the NJLAD the term “disability” is broadly interpreted and is not restricted to severe or immutable disabilities.
However, a condition considered a disability, handicap, or disease for purposes of clinical research or medical treatment is not necessarily a “disability” within the meaning of the NJLAD.
AIDS, HIV, and alcoholism are disabilities under the NJLAD. In addition, obesity, diabetes, myocardial infarction resulting from a heart attack, spinal surgery that limits physical abilities, and multiple sclerosis are all disabilities for purposes of New Jersey employment law. However, unlawful drug use is not a protected disability.
What Exceptions Exist To New Jersey’s Reasonable Accommodation Requirement?
The NJLAD allows for disability discrimination when the nature or extent of the disability reasonably precludes the performance of the particular job.
New Jersey law is satisfied where it can reasonably be determined that an applicant or employee, as a result of the individual’s disability and despite reasonable accommodation, cannot adequately perform the essential functions of the job.
Adequate performance means that the disabled individual, with reasonable accommodation, is performing at the level considered acceptable when evaluating other workers.
So, too, the NJLAD permits employers to discriminate against disabled individuals where the employer can demonstrate that even with reasonable accommodation, the employment of that individual in a particular position would be hazardous to the safety or health of that individual, other employees, clients or customers.
A “hazard” to the individual with a disability is a materially enhanced risk of serious harm. Factors to be considered in making that determination include the likelihood of the risk materializing, the extent of the harm if the risk materializes, the number of people who would be harmed if the risk takes effect, and the ease or difficulty of minimizing the risk.
Discrimination against a handicapped individual must not be based on the preferences or unreasonable fears of coworkers, clients, customers, or employers, an anticipated or actual increase in the cost of insurance under a group or employee insurance plan, or an unproven assumption that the individual will be chronically absent.
If you are an executive or a professional in the Manhattan City metropolitan area and you believe that you have been wrongfully terminated or that your employer has failed or refused to reasonably accommodate your disability, call Manhattan Wrongful Termination Lawyer David S. Rich at (201) 884-2114 today.
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