The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) has sued Federal Express after the EEOC’s investigation revealed that the shipping giant has been discriminating against deaf and hard of hearing package handlers and applicants for many years. The lawsuit alleges that FedEx failed to provide reasonable accommodations for hearing disabled workers and therefore violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), which requires employers to make efforts to reasonably accommodate disabled employees and/or applicants.
The EEOC’s lawsuit alleges that FedEx orientation materials did not provide sign language interpretation or closed captioned video trainings. The company also allegedly “refused” to provide equipment substitutions and modifications such as scanners that vibrate rather than beep.
Disability Discrimination is Prohibited Workplace Misconduct
The Americans with Disabilities Act and New York Human Rights laws prohibit employers with 15 or more employees under the ADA and 4 or more employees under state law from discriminating against employees or applicants on the basis of disabilities. The laws prohibit discrimination in all aspects of the employment relationship, including hiring, firing, pay, promotion and others. They also protect employees from unlawful retaliation when they exercise their right to complain under the law.
In addition to prohibiting discrimination against employees with qualifying disabilities, the laws require employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities. The FedEx lawsuit discussed above provides excellent examples of accommodations that would likely be found reasonable in that an employee may need closed captioning on training videos or equipment that has a response system that can be felt rather than heard.
“Disability” under the New York law means an impairment that limits the exercise of a normal bodily function, or is demonstrable by medically accepted clinical or laboratory techniques. This is a broader definition than the ADA requirement that the disability substantially limit one or more major life activities.
If You Are Disabled You Should Request Accommodation
In light of the laws discussed above, if you have a disability that can be accommodated in the workplace do not hesitate to ask your employer. For example, if you had recent back surgery and need a special chair pad because you are unable to sit for 8 hours a day in a hard-backed chair, you should ask your supervisor for accommodations. If the employer fails to grant a reasonable accommodation, you may have a claim for disability discrimination under the ADA or New York State Human Rights law. Don’t let your employer fail to recognize the fact that you need assistance at work, and definitely do not accept any adverse employment action as a result of your exercise of your legal rights. The employment lawyers at Joseph & Norinsberg will fight for your rights. Contact us today at 212-JUSTICE or firstname.lastname@example.org for a free consultation.