What Rights Do Employees With Disabilities Have?

According to the CDC, 26% of adults in the United States, nearly one in four, have some sort of disability, meaning that there are many employees in our workforce with disabilities. While many adults live with a disability, whether it’s permanent or temporary, they may still suffer unfair treatment, discrimination, and harassment in the workplace. However, federal, state, and local laws provide various protections to employees with disabilities. 

At Brown Kwon & Lam, we help New York City employees protect their employee rights and fight back against employment discrimination, such as disability discrimination. If you have a disability, learn more about the rights you have in the workplace and what you can do to get help if your rights are violated.

Protection from Discrimination and Harassment

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in various critical aspects of life, including employment, housing, and public accommodations. Disability is a protected class, making it illegal to discriminate against employees with disabilities in any aspect of employment. Which employees are covered by laws enforced by the EEOC varies.

However, while not all employees are covered by federal laws, the New York State Human Rights Law is applicable to employers of all sizes. The New York City Human Rights Law makes it illegal to discriminate against employees with disabilities for employers with four or more employees and also protects employees from harassment based on their disability. New York State and New York City laws both cover independent contractors as well and may cover more disabilities and impairments than federal law alone. Because of this, while some employees with disabilities may not receive protection under federal law, they could still be covered by state or local laws.

Reasonable Accommodation

Reasonable accommodations help allow employees with disabilities to perform their job duties. Under state, federal, and local law, it could be considered discriminatory to deny an employee a reasonable accommodation, so long as this accommodation doesn’t cause the employer undue hardship. What is considered an undue hardship may vary from employer to employer, as the resources employers have available to them can vary greatly.


The ADA also provides employees with confidentiality regarding their medical information. Employers must keep documents regarding an employee’s medical conditions and treatment separate from their personnel file. Employers also can’t discuss when an employee has requested or received a reasonable accommodation. However, there are situations where an employee with a disability or medical condition isn’t covered by the ADA’s confidentiality requirements. In some cases, if an employer voluntarily discloses a disability in a way that’s unrelated to a medical injury. Employers may also need to share information regarding a disability or reasonable accommodations with others even when the employee is protected by the ADA. For example, supervisors may need to know about the disability or reasonable accommodation or they may need to share this information with their insurance company.  

Contact Our NYC Disability Discrimination Lawyers for Help

All employees deserve to work in an environment where they can feel safe and welcome, which isn’t always the case. If you’re being discriminated against for your disability, you need an employment discrimination lawyer who can help you understand and protect your rights. Brown Kwon & Lam has experience helping employees in NYC get justice for employment discrimination.

Contact us today to find out how we can help.

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