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New York Court Discusses Elements of Disability Discrimination Claims

September 22, 2020

People living with disabilities have the right to enjoy gainful employment, free from discrimination based on their illnesses or conditions. Thus, if an employer treats an employee adversely because of the employee’s disability, it may constitute grounds for an employment discrimination lawsuit. Merely because an employer terminates an employee suffering from a disability does not mean that discrimination has occurred, however, as demonstrated in a recent New York case in which the court discussed the elements of a disability discrimination claim. If you have a disability and you believe your employer is engaging in discriminatory practices because of your disability, it is advisable to confer with a knowledgeable New York employment discrimination attorney to discuss whether you may be owed damages.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the plaintiff, who has multiple sclerosis, was employed by the defendant as a managing agent for a cooperative. Plaintiff filed a charge with the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) against the defendant in 2012, complaining of numerous employment actions against her on the basis of her disability and gender. She was then advised she had ninety days to file an employment discrimination lawsuit but did not.

Allegedly, following an audit in which certain employees were reclassified from exempt to non-exempt, the plaintiff was responsible for the overpayment to such employees in an amount in excess of ninety thousand dollars. She was subsequently fired. She then filed a lawsuit against the defendant, alleging employment discrimination on the basis of her disability and gender. The defendants filed a motion to dismiss, which the court granted.

Elements of a Disability Discrimination Claim

The plaintiff’s second claim alleged discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which provides in relevant part that no employer that falls under the Act shall discriminate against a qualified person on the basis of the person’s disability, with regard to procedures relating to job applications, hiring, firing, and promoting employees, wages, training, or other terms of employment.

Under the Act, a plaintiff seeking to establish a disability discrimination claim must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that his or her employer is subject to the Act, the plaintiff suffers from a disability within the meaning of the Act, he or she was otherwise qualified to perform the essential duties of the job, without or with a reasonable accommodation, but he or she nonetheless suffered an adverse employment action because of the disability.

In the subject case, the court found that while the plaintiff set forth sufficient evidence to establish a prima facie case of disability discrimination, the defendant demonstrated a non-discriminatory reason for terminating the plaintiff’s employment, which the plaintiff failed to show was mere pretext. As such, the claim was dismissed.

Speak to a Trusted Employment Attorney

If you suffered discrimination in the workplace due to your disability, you may be able to pursue claims against your employer and should speak to an attorney. The trusted New York employment discrimination attorneys of Gerstman Schwartz LLP are adept at helping employees pursue justice via civil lawsuits, and if you retain our services, we will work diligently to help you seek a fair outcome. We can be contacted at our office in Manhattan at (212) 227-7070, at our office in Garden City at (516) 880-8170, or via our form online to set up a meeting.

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