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Do you believe you’ve been fired by your employer due to a disability? Individuals with disabilities belong to a federally protected class and are supported by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Under this law, it’s illegal for your employer to fire you or discriminate against you due to any physical or mental disability.

What is disability discrimination?

Simply put, disability discrimination occurs when an employer takes any adverse action against you, such as demotion or termination, due to your disability.  Also, your employer MUST make a reasonable accommodation in order to help you perform your job.

In order to be recognized as having a disability, under both Ohio and federal law, you must have an impairment (either mental or physical) that significantly limits at least one major life activity (those things we do which are essential to daily life). These major life activities include things as simple as breathing, speaking, seeing, and hearing along with more complex activities such as caring for yourself, learning, reading, and doing manual labor. They also include major bodily functions.

If you have a disability as expressed in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), you have the right to reasonable accommodation in your workplace. A reasonable accommodation is one that does not impose undue hardship on your employer. The accommodation must not require the  employer to incur substantial expense or difficulty considering the size and resources of the business. While your employer does not have to provide you with the exact accommodation requested, they must work with you to establish a reasonable accommodation.

The law provides that you must request an accommodation from your employer to receive one. It’s your responsibility to ask. Examples of reasonable accommodations may include ergonomic office fixtures, anti-glare computer monitor filters, modified work schedules, etc.

As someone with a disability, the ADA protects you from losing your job and provides support to seek reasonable accommodation, as long as you are able to perform the essential job functions of your position. Essential job functions are the basic duties of a given job. They are the reason the job exists and should be defined in a job's written description. The essential job function of a chef is to prepare food, for example, or of a software engineer to program and develop software.

In order to be protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act, you must be able to perform the essential job functions of your position. In addition to federal law, Ohio law prohibits employers  from discriminating against you for your disability by treating you differently, segregating you from other employees, terminating your employment, and more.

Damages - What can you recover?

If you can prove that your employer has taken action against you because of your disability,  you may be awarded damages by the court. You could potentially receive back pay (wages lost to date), front pay (the equivalent of your wages going forward for a specified period), reimbursement for costs incurred because you were fired, or damages for your pain and suffering. You may also be able to recover attorneys' fees, and your former employer may incur punitive damages. You could even ask for your old job back, although your working environment may then be uncomfortable.

When should you call an attorney?

If you think you might have a case of disability discrimination against your employer, you should not hesitate to reach out to an Ohio attorney experienced in employment law. They can assist you in determining the merit of your case and taking the next steps required to file a lawsuit against your employer.

A timely filing is crucial to protecting yourself from discrimination, and there is a time limit within which you must file a charge against a discriminating employer. You may have as little as 180 days (six months) to file a claim.

Have you experienced employment discrimination due to your disability? Don’t wait: reach out to an attorney experienced in employment law - call Harry Bernstein at 216-600-0124 today!