Fighting Chronic Illness Workplace Discrimination in New Jersey
While suffering from a chronic illness can make it difficult to maintain a normal workplace experience, employees should not face discrimination or retaliation based on a disability, illness, or health condition. A chronic illness or disability is not an easy fight, on top of the stressors and responsibilities of work. Fortunately, federal and state laws make it unlawful for you to be discriminated against or harassed in the workplace because of your disability or health condition.
With offices in Red Bank, NJ, and Marlton, NJ, McOmber McOmber & Luber, P.C. represents both employees and employers throughout the state in a wide range of employment discrimination matters, including chronic illness workplace discrimination. Our attorneys will provide you with a clear and candid evaluation of any potential claims, as well as all legal options available to you.
Federal Protections for Chronic Illnesses under the ADA
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects people with disabilities, including illnesses, from discrimination in the workplace. The ADA defines ‘disability’ as any physical or mental impairment that significantly limits a major life activity or a person’s ability to perform basic tasks, such as walking, bending, reading, learning, or speaking. Impairments that affect bodily functions are also covered, such as chronic conditions of bowel, bladder, neurological, respiratory, endocrine, and immune system.
Who Applies for Chronic Illness Protection Under ADA?
The ADA applies to all private employers, state and local governments, employment agencies and labor unions with 15 or more employees. It also applies to all employment matters, including job application procedures, hiring, firing, layoffs, compensation and benefits.
Individuals covered by the ADA include:
- Those who have a diagnosed chronic illness. Covered employees include those who are unable to fully perform certain tasks of the job due to a significant physical or mental impairment. This can be proven with medical records that document the impairment.
- Previous impairment. A potential or current employer cannot discriminate against an employee who previously had a chronic illness, whether or not that illness still affects their ability to work.
- The employer considers the employee to be disabled. Employers are prohibited from discriminating against a candidate due to a perceived disability or chronic illness, regardless of whether the employee has or does not have a disability. This includes false impressions of a previous illness or employees with an illness that has not been reported.
Chronic illnesses are conditions that last more than one year and require ongoing medical attention. While the ADA does not have a complete list of protected chronic illnesses, common examples of illnesses that may affect employees in the workplace include, but are not limited to:
- Bipolar mood disease
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
- Chronic kidney disease
- Coronary artery disease
- Crohn’s disease
- Heart Disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis
New Jersey State Protections Under NJLAD
The American with Disabilities Act is a federal law protecting disabled individuals, but state and local laws offer additional protection to disabled workers. The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against any individual based on a real or perceived chronic illness or disability. The NJLAD applies to all private, state and local government employers in New Jersey, whereas the ADA applies only to employers with 15 or more employees. The NJLAD also includes a broader range of illnesses than the ADA affords. NJLAD specifically covers:
- Physical illness, disease, disability, infirmity, malformation, or disfigurement
- AIDS/HIV infection or blood traits
- Non-physical conditions including mental or psychological conditions that prevent the normal use of any bodily functions.
Reasonable Accommodations for Chronic Illnesses
If you have a chronic illness or condition, you may need special accommodations to your schedule, routines, or tasks at work. Luckily, the ADA and NJLAD requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for qualified applicants and current employees suffering with certain illnesses. Reasonable accommodations may include modifications to either the functions of a job or to the environment in which employees work. Accommodation gives the individuals the tools to succeed, be competitive, and stay employed in a position for which they are qualified.
While employers are expected to provide reasonable accommodations, they are not expected to provide accommodations that could create an undue hardship. For the purposes of the ADA, accommodations could be considered an undue hardship if they create significant difficulty for a business, either logistically or financially. McOmber McOmber & Luber, P.C.’s experienced chronic illness workplace discrimination attorneys can determine if your accommodations are reasonable.
Unlawful Retaliation Following Chronic Illness Workplace Discrimination Claims
Federal and state laws also prohibit retaliation based on a chronic illness, disability, or medical condition. An employer or boss cannot become aware of your condition and attempt to push you out, make your employment miserable, or harass you – which is defined as retaliation. It is illegal for any employer to terminate, discipline, or otherwise retaliate against an employee who reports, complains, files a charge, or participates in an investigation regarding chronic illness discrimination. This applies to both internal and external claims. If you complained about harassment and were fired, denied privileges, or demoted as a result, you may be able to file a separate retaliation charge.
What Should I Do If I Have Been the Victim of Chronic Illness Workplace Discrimination in NJ?
If you feel your employer is discriminating or retaliating against you due to your chronic condition or illness, an employment discrimination attorney at McOmber McOmber & Luber, P.C. is here to represent you in the matter. We will review the details of your case and help you determine if you should pursue action by filing a lawsuit under the NJLAD or federal law. We can also defend you if you are an employer facing a claim of chronic illness workplace discrimination. Contact us today to discuss your case.