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Disability Rights & Employee Leaves

People with disabilities have the right to work in any field in which they are qualified to perform the work with “reasonable accommodations.” Some people, with or without disabilities, also have the right to take unpaid medical leave to care for their own serious medical condition or that of a close relative. While pregnancy is not necessarily a “disability,” pregnant women often face discrimination at the intersection of gender and disability – not only do they face bias because they are women and will soon be mothers, but they also suffer disability-related stigmas, with people assuming that they are weak, unwilling, or unable to continue working.

Beranbaum Menken fights for employees’ rights to be free from discrimination or harassment based on disability or pregnancy, and for the right of workers to take any medical leave to which they are entitled. We also fight for employees who try to assert his or her own rights and face unlawful retaliation as a result. If you think you have been the victim of unlawful disability or pregnancy discrimination or have been denied medical leave rights, contact us for a consultation.

Pregnancy Discrimination

Pregnancy discrimination is considered a form of sex discrimination under federal law. Employers cannot treat pregnant employees differently from non-pregnant employees. For example, if an employer offers certain accommodations for non-pregnant temporarily disabled employees (like allowing someone to do light duty temporarily), they can’t deny those accommodations to pregnant employees who need them. Some pregnancy-related conditions are considered disabilities within the meaning of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Moreover, people having children may be entitled to unpaid leave under the Family Medical Leave Act to care for their newborns.

Beranbaum Menken has experience protecting the rights of employees to be free of pregnancy discrimination. If you believe you may have been a victim of pregnancy discrimination, contact us.

 

The Family and Medical Leave Act

Many employees are entitled to up to 12 weeks of unpaid medical leave to care for their own serious medical condition, that of a close relative, or to care for a newborn or adopted child. The law that governs this leave is called the “Family Medical Leave Act” (FMLA).

FMLA protects individuals who work for a company with over 50 employees, who have worked for the company for at least 12 months, and who have worked at least 1,250 hours during the 12 months just before the leave.

Of course, many employers are loathe to allow their employees to take the time they need and to which they are entitled. Wrongfully denying an employee the ability to take their leave, or making it unreasonably difficult for them to take the leave constitutes “interfering” with an employee’s FMLA rights, and is illegal. We have represented numerous employees who have been wrongfully denied their FMLA rights or whose FMLA rights have been interfered with.

We have also represented employees who have faced retaliation for attempting to take their lawful FMLA leave. Some employees are simply fired as soon as they request the leave or shortly after they return, often under the guise of “bad” performance. For example, in a case litigated by this firm, an employer asked the employee to delay his leave. The employee agreed, though of course he was suffering a serious medical condition. His condition caused him to be late once and to miss a single day of work. His employers fired him immediately, preventing him from taking his leave. Other employers retaliate by giving the employee a substantially worse position or shift when they return from leave, which is generally not allowed under the law.

If you believe you may have been the victim of a FMLA violation, contact us.

 

Disability Discrimination

Beranbaum Menken LLP has a long history of defending the rights of people with disabilities. Our attorneys have been advocating for disability rights in the private and public sphere for almost 30 years.

While most people are familiar with certain requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), many people aren’t aware that they are entitled to certain rights. For example, the definition of “disability” was broadened in 2008, meaning that many more forms of disability are recognized as deserving of protection, including many more mental impairments, like depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Moreover, while employees may be aware that they are entitled to some accommodations, they may not be aware that they are entitled (and required) to engage in an “interactive process” with their employers. That means that employers can’t simply say “no” to a request for an accommodation, they are required to engage the employee in a dialogue about what accommodations are needed and how best to achieve them. The employees, also, are required to engage in the interactive process in good faith.

Some employees who have medical conditions aren’t actually “disabled,” in the sense that their condition may not actually affect their work at all. However, some employers are quick to jump to conclusions, and may discriminate against an employee based on stereotypes about the medical condition. Employers are not allowed to discriminate against people they “regard as” disabled, and people who are wrongfully presumed to have a disabling medical condition are protected under the ADA.

Finally, some people are simply prejudiced against people with disabilities. The ADA protects people against disability based harassment and hostile work environments.

Beranbaum Menken LLP zealously represents individuals protected by the ADA. We have achieved jury verdicts on behalf of a social worker denied a promotion while recovering from cancer and a salesman fired after suffering a heart attack. We have won significant settlements on behalf of an individual suffering from PTSD after being the victim of a crime, an individual who’s physical disability became totally debilitating due to his employer’s refused to accommodate him, an individual who was subjected to a hostile work environment by his coworkers because of his minor mental impairment, and an individual who lost his job as a result of his employer’s refusal to accommodate his major depression. We have also succeeded in getting a major airline, JetBlue, to change its long term disability policy, which had previously automatically terminated employees returning from long term disability leave, rather than assessing whether the employee was able to return to work with a reasonable accommodation.

We also engage in impact litigation and don’t shy away from complex litigation where the law is unclear. We believe that good cases make good law.

For example, Beranbaum Menken litigated the first case in the Second Circuit to explicitly hold that the New York State Human Rights Law defines “disability” more liberally than the ADA. We also litigated the first case within the Second Circuit to address discrimination based on “associations”, i.e. relationships with disabled individuals. The case involved a corporate employee who was fired from her job because she gave birth to a child with serious medical needs. 

If you believe you have been the victim of disability discrimination, that your employer has failed to accommodate you or engage you in an interactive process, or you

believe your employer wrongfully believes that you have a disability that affects your work, contact us for a consultation or visit our Frequently Asked Questions about Disability Discrimination.