Disability Discrimination

About Disability Discrimination Attorneys in NY

Disability discrimination in the workplace is illegal. Disability discrimination occurs whenever a job applicant or employee is treated adversely based on their disability, whether that impairment is mental and emotional, or physical, or both. It can involve failure to hire, termination, failure to train or provide other job opportunities, disparate pay, or other actions taken on the basis of a person’s disability. It also includes failure to provide a reasonable accommodation (when providing that accommodation would not present an undue hardship).

The federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that employers covered by the law provide reasonable accommodations to known physical or mental limitations of qualified employees. This law applies whether the employee works part-time or full-time. New York State and New York City laws such as the New York City Human Rights Law and New York State Human Rights Law also prohibit disability discrimination.

Under the New York State Human Rights Law, disabilities are physical conditions, medical conditions, and mental impairments arising out of anatomical, physiological, genetic, and neurological conditions that prevent your normal exercise of bodily functions or that can be discovered through medically or clinically accepted diagnostic methods. Our New York City disability discrimination lawyers may be able to file a lawsuit if you have a record of such impairment, or even if you’re perceived at work as having a disability, even though you don’t actually have one.

What can Disability Discrimination include?

More examples of disability discrimination in the workplace might include:

  • Statements such as “He’s not capable of performing these job duties,” or “She’s unqualified for this job”
  • Derogatory comments about an employee’s disability
  • Refusing an employee’s request for time off to get medical treatment for a disability/terminating the employee instead
  • Refusing to make the facility accessible to people with disabilities

Do Not Hesitate to Contact Our Experienced Attorneys in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, & Florida

If you have been discriminated against because of a disability, you may be entitled to recover compensation. However, there is a statute of limitations to bring a disability discrimination lawsuit, so it is important to contact our New York disability discrimination attorneys as soon as possible. At Phillips & Associates, Attorneys at Law, your initial consultation with us is always free. During the consultation, we will help answer your questions, explain the disability discrimination laws that apply in your situation, and discuss the legal options you can pursue. Our firm will come up with a legal strategy that suits your needs and will achieve the best outcome possible for you. At Phillips & Associates, Attorneys at Law, we handle all our cases on a contingency fee basis, which means you pay no attorney’s fees unless we win compensation for you. 

If you have experienced disability discrimination in the workplace, contact Phillips & Associates, Attorneys at Law by calling (866) 229-9441 or filling out our online form. We look forward to providing you with the highest quality legal representation.

Disability Discrimination Laws

Disability discrimination happens if an employer treats an employee or job applicant adversely due to their disability. There are three primary disability discrimination laws that cover employers in New York City: The Americans with Disabilities Act, the New York State Human Rights Law, and the New York City Human Rights Law. At Phillips & Associates, Attorneys at Law, our New York City disability discrimination lawyers understand the nuances of these three different laws, and we can counsel you on which law or laws apply to your situation.

Federal Disability Discrimination Laws

The federal law that prohibits disability discrimination is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA only covers employers that have a minimum of 15 employees. You must both be qualified for a job and have a disability to be protected by the ADA.

How does the ADA define a disability? You can show that you have a disability in three different ways. First, you can show a disability if you have a physical or mental condition that significantly limits a major life activity, such as learning, hearing, seeing, or walking. You can also show a disability if you have a record of having a disability. Finally, you can show a disability if you have a physical or mental impairment that is not passing and insignificant. The ADA also prohibits discrimination against an employee or applicant based on their relationship with a person with a disability.

Discrimination is not allowed with regard to any aspect of employment, including layoffs, training, assignments, hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, or promotions. Harassment is one form of discrimination. Harassment based on a disability is illegal if it is so severe or frequent that it creates a hostile work environment or gives rise to an adverse employment decision.

Under the ADA, an employer is supposed to provide a reasonable accommodation to employees or job applicants with disabilities unless providing this would cause an undue hardship for the employer.

The New York State Human Rights Law

The New York State Human Rights Law mirrors the ADA in many respects. It covers employers that have a minimum of four employees. However, it has a different definition of a disability. Under state law, a disability is: (1) a medical, mental, or physical impairment arising from neurological, anatomical, genetic, or physiological conditions that stop the use of normal bodily functions or are demonstrable through medically accepted clinical or lab diagnostic techniques, (2) a record of this impairment, or (3) a condition considered by others as such an impairment, as long as the term is limited to disabilities that do not stop the complainant from performing the relevant job tasks in a reasonable way.

Under state law, the person asking for an accommodation and their attorney must prove that if a reasonable accommodation is provided, the condition would not stop the person from performing in a reasonable way. The employer can present an undue hardship as an affirmative defense.

Local Disability Discrimination Laws

The New York City Human Rights Law is a local law that prohibits disability discrimination, and it defines disability more broadly than state or federal laws. It covers employers that have at least five employees. Under this law, a disability includes any psychological, mental, medical, or physical impairment, as well as a history or record of being so impaired. Impairments are defined as an impairment of any bodily system, including the musculoskeletal system, the respiratory organs, the special sense organs, the neurological system, the digestive systems, the genito-urinary systems, the hemic and lymphatic systems, the endocrine system, the immunological systems, and the skin. It also includes mental or psychological impairments. Unlike the other laws, the burden of proof in the city law is with the employer that is refusing the accommodation or claiming that to provide the accommodation would present an undue hardship.

Reasonable Accommodations

Reasonable accommodations are alterations to how things are done in the workplace or your work environment that allow you to do your job as a qualified individual. To receive a reasonable accommodation under the state law, you must not only meet the definition of disability, which is expansive, but also be qualified for the job. A prospective employer can deny you a job if you are disabled, but simply don’t have the educational background to do the work. 

Reasonable accommodations can include modifications to the work environment or to the way the job is customarily done to help a disabled employee perform the duties of the job. Examples of reasonable accommodation can include modifying the employee’s work schedule, making facilities accessible to the disabled (e.g. making ramps), modifying tests and training materials, and modifying or buying new equipment.

Your employer should consider a reasonable accommodation if it knows of your disability, along with your need for an accommodation. You can also expressly request a reasonable accommodation because of your disability. For example, if you need a different rest break schedule to take a medication for a chronic, disabling condition, this would be an accommodation.

Your employer does not need to provide an accommodation if to do so would present an undue hardship. There are a range of factors that go into determining whether an employer has an undue hardship. Generally, a minor expense is not considered an undue hardship. 

If you ask for a reasonable accommodation for your disability, your employer is required to get involved in a good-faith cooperative dialogue with you. The purpose is to figure out which accommodation would be reasonable, given a particular disability. In some cases, an employer may be able to provide you with an alternative accommodation from the specific one that you requested, but it may need more information to figure out whether that would help you or not. At the conclusion of the dialogue, your employer is supposed to give you a written final decision stating if an accommodation was granted or refused.

Generally, the city law is very expansive and favorable to plaintiffs, even more so than either the federal or state anti-discrimination laws. Rather than putting the burden on your attorney and you to show that you are qualified to do a job with or without a reasonable accommodation, as the state law does, the city law puts the burden on your employer to show that you are not qualified to do the job at issue. An employer is considered to know what the real needs of a particular job are and which accommodations would be reasonable. In most cases, job applicants and employees do not know the details of a position that they do not have or why those needs exist from the business' perspective. In most cases, the employer understands better which accommodations it is able to offer.


You should not be retaliated against for exercising your right to request a reasonable accommodation or engaging in any other protected right, such as filing a complaint with HR or filing a charge with the EEOC. Retaliation occurs when an employer takes an adverse action based on engaging in a protected right, and in some cases, retaliation cases are more straightforward than an initial disability discrimination lawsuit.


The remedies available if you have been a victim of disability discrimination are also greater under the city law than they are under state or federal laws. As with the ADA, you can recover punitive damages and attorneys' fees. However, whereas the ADA places caps on the amount of compensatory damages based on the size of the employer, the city law has no such caps. You can recover an unlimited amount of compensatory damages based on what the jury believes flows from what you suffered. Punitive damages are restricted only by what is constitutional. Under the city law, there may be civil penalties available as well.

Disability Discrimination FAQs

Which Laws Prohibit Disability Discrimination?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is the federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of a job applicant or employee's disability. Intentional prejudice, as well as actions or omissions that deny people with disabilities equal access to the same opportunities or benefits in the workplace, are forms of disability discrimination. For example, if you are fired because of your disability, this is discrimination. However, if you are a qualified employee who needs a reasonable accommodation that does not pose an undue hardship to your employer, and you are denied that reasonable accommodation, this may also be disability discrimination. The New York State Human Rights Law and the New York City Human Rights Law also prohibit disability discrimination.

What is Mental Disability Discrimination?

Mental illnesses and psychiatric conditions are considered disabilities in the workplace. Your employer may not discriminate against you because you have a mental disability or because it perceives you as having a mental disability. Additionally, you are entitled to a reasonable accommodation for your mental disability. For example, if you require a slightly modified or more flexible work schedule due to a mental disability, you can request a reasonable accommodation. Your employer is supposed to provide a reasonable accommodation, assuming that you are qualified and the accommodation does not present an undue hardship. Furthermore, you are entitled to work in a place free from harassment due to your disability.

What is Physical Disability Discrimination?

Physical disability discrimination occurs if you are treated differently in the workplace based on a physical impairment that you actually have, that you have had in the past, or that you are perceived as having. For example, if your employer permits your coworkers to harass you due to your disability and does not promote you because of your disability, these are forms of physical disability discrimination.

Is AIDS/HIV Considered a Disability?

Yes. People who are HIV positive or who have AIDS are protected under the ADA, as well as the New York State Human Rights Law. Under the ADA, you are considered to have a disability if you have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity, you have a record of this type of impairment, or you are perceived as having an impairment. Even people with HIV that is asymptomatic have physical impairments that substantially limit their major life activities. The ADA also protects people who suffer from discrimination due to a known association or relationship with someone who is HIV positive. The New York State Human Rights Law protects people who work for smaller employers.

Am I Entitled to a Reasonable Accommodation for Attention Deficit Disorder?

Most likely. If you have an ADD diagnosis, you likely have difficulty with the major life activity of concentrating. As long as you are otherwise qualified, and providing a reasonable accommodation does not entail an undue hardship for your employer, you may be able to such accommodations such as a more flexible schedule, slightly more time to complete an assignment, or an altered work space in order to allow you to complete your job tasks at the appropriate rate.

Can I Get a Reasonable Accommodation for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Carpal tunnel syndrome is quite common, especially among administrative or clerical workers. It often results from excessive and repetitive typing. Reasonable accommodations are usually available for carpal tunnel syndrome, and they can include modified work schedules, more breaks, an ergonomic evaluation of your workstation so that you can get a special keyboard and chair to minimize the pain, and medical leave, when necessary.

Is Diabetes Considered a Disability?

Yes, in most cases, diabetes is considered a disability, because it involves the major life activity of processing sugars appropriately. Reasonable accommodations could include rest breaks to administer insulin and time off to go to doctor's appointments.

Are Reasonable Accommodations Available for Dyslexia?

Yes, as long as you are otherwise qualified to do your job, you should be able to get a reasonable accommodation for dyslexia. For example, you may be able to get more time for tasks related to reading, or you may be able to receive training through oral means rather than written means.

Are Migraines Disabilities Under the law?

Yes, migraines can impair your ability to perform job tasks, come to work, or complete a day's work, due to intolerance to light and sound, impaired vision, inability to think clearly, and pain. In some cases, supervisors are unsympathetic because they do not understand that a migraine is different from a regular headache. Employers are not permitted to allow a hostile work environment based on an employee's disabling migraines or make other employment decisions based on your past or present migraines. You are entitled to reasonable accommodations to do your work, such as an altered or flexible schedule, unless providing you with an accommodation would result in an undue hardship.

Which Reasonable Accommodations May Be Available for PTSD?

According to the EEOC, most people with PTSD will be considered to have a disability under the ADA. PTSD limits the major life activity of brain function. You are not generally required to disclose your PTSD to your employer, but you will need to disclose it if you need a reasonable accommodation to perform essential job functions. Your employer can ask you to submit to a medical exam if it is job-related and consistent with business necessity.

Is There a Reasonable Accommodation Available for Tourette Syndrome?

The Department of Justice has asserted that Tourette Syndrome is an ADA-covered disability. Some employees may still have difficulty asserting their rights under the law, including requests for reasonable accommodations. In some cases, judges disagree about what is considered a major life activity. Interacting with others and working are major life activities, and in many cases, people with Tourette Syndrome encounter challenges in these areas. A reasonable accommodation may be available, but it can be helpful to try to engage in an interactive process with your employer or prospective employer with the help of an experienced lawyer.

Discuss Your Disability Discrimination Case with an Attorney

At Phillips & Associates, Attorneys at Law, we can help you if you believe that you were affected by a violation of disability discrimination laws. 

Contact us at (866) 229-9441 or through our online form for a free consultation.

What Our Clients Say:

    "He covered every angle and was able to help me with my dispute. I would recommend Jesse Weinstein and Phillips and Associates in the future to anyone."

    - Margaret

    "Being in the restaurant industry for more than 30 years I can say that this law firm is the number one choice for workers in the restaurant business that need to sue their company for wrongful termination."

    - Massimo

    "He was extremely patient and understanding throughout the process and remained professional and consistent even when I could not. I really felt like he had my back and I didn't have to worry."

    - Karen