Disability Discrimination Attorneys in Wilson, North Carolina
Both federal and North Carolina state laws protect job applicants and employees from discrimination based on individual characteristics, including race, religion, national origin, gender, and disability. For most types of discrimination, the threshold for a particular employer to be covered by these laws is having 15 or more employees.
The U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964 originally offered protection against discrimination at work because of race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. It wasn’t until a quarter-century later, in 1990, that Congress passed and the President signed a law – the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) -- against discrimination because of an applicant’s or employee’s disability.
In 1977, North Carolina passed its Equal Employment Practices Act, which mirrored the U.S. Civil Rights Act in many regards, but it also included those with a “handicap” (disability) as being covered by its protections. The law subsequently created a Human Relations Commission to field charges of discrimination and “seek amicable resolution.”
Thereafter, it fell to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), established to oversee the nation’s anti-discrimination and anti-harassment statutes, to become the enforcement arm for those who are discriminated against on the job or in applying for a job.
The wording was later added to the North Carolina Equal Employment Practices Act (NCEEPA) so that the state’s Human Relations Commission “shall have the authority to receive charges of discrimination from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission….”
Generally speaking, claims of discrimination must generally begin with an EEOC filing. From there, any potential legal action depends on the findings of the federal commission.
If you or a loved one feel you have been discriminated against because of a disability at work in or around Wilson, North Carolina – or anywhere in the state – contact the employment law attorneys at Lusby & Brooks, P.A. today for legal guidance. For more than a decade now, we have been helping employees protect and preserve their workplace rights in the face of discrimination and other wrongful employer practices, even in the hiring process.
Our attorneys at Lusby & Brooks, P.A. proudly serve clients throughout North Carolina, including Wilmington, Fayetteville, Jacksonville, Raleigh, Charlotte, and Greensboro.
What Is a Disability?
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the definition of a disability is a legal one and not a medical definition. Thus it is different, for instance, from how the Social Security Administration (SSA) defines disability for programs such as Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).
The ADA describes a disability as “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.” Following the law’s passage in 1990, courts narrowly interpreted “major life activities,” so much so that in 2009 Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act (ADAAA) to clarify which life activities are covered by the definition of disability.
Major life activities include but are not limited to seeing, hearing, walking, caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, eating, standing, sitting, reaching, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, writing, communicating, and interacting with others. Also covered are major bodily functions such as the immune, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, respiratory, circulatory, cardiovascular, reproductive, endocrine, and sensory systems.
The definition of disability under the ADA is also expansive. It includes not only those exhibiting an impairment but also those with a record of a disability or those whom others regard – rightly or wrongly – as being disabled. It also covers those who associate with others who have disabilities, such as spouses, roommates or close associates, or friends.
However, the ADA is also clear in that one’s physical or mental impairment cannot be such that it prevents the performance of a job’s essential functions or duties. The ADA offers anti-discrimination protection only for those applicants and employees who satisfy the employer’s qualifications in terms of education, training, experience, skills, and licensing, and who also can perform the essential functions of the job with or without reasonable accommodation.
What Is a Reasonable Accommodation?
The ADA allows job applicants and employees who are otherwise fully qualified for their positions to seek what is called a “reasonable accommodation.” A reasonable accommodation might include better access to one’s workspace or adaptive technology to more readily access and use a computer or other devices required as part of one’s job.
The employer is not required to grant a request for a reasonable accommodation but must show that doing so would result in an “undue hardship” for the company.
An undue hardship might be related to the overall cost or the physical requirements of reconfiguring the office or work environment. The employer can offer a more affordable opportunity, but the bottom line is that the employer must engage in an “interactive process” with the employee to determine if and how a reasonable accommodation might be accomplished.
The EEOC maintains that most reasonable accommodations cost less than $500 to achieve, so employers should be mindful of drawing the EEOC's attention by claiming a low-cost reasonable accommodation poses an “undue hardship” and thus deny the request. Employees should also be aware that they can challenge a denial if it appears not to pose an undue hardship.
Disability Discrimination Attorneys Serving Wilson, North Carolina
If you or a loved one have been discriminated against or denied a reasonable accommodation at work because of a physical or mental impairment, contact Lusby & Brooks, P.A. for legal assistance. If and when the opportunity arises, we can aggressively pursue legal action against your employer, former employer, or employer who rejected your otherwise qualified job application. We serve clients in Wilson, Wilmington, Fayetteville, Jacksonville, Raleigh, Charlotte, and Greensboro, North Carolina.