Disability Discrimination

Minnesota and federal law prohibit employers from discriminating against employees who have a disability. The Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and the Minnesota Human Rights Act (“MHRA”) prohibit an employer from treating an applicant or employee less favorably than those who do not have a disability in all aspects of employment including hiring, firing, tenure, compensation, terms, upgrading, conditions, facilities or privileges of employment. We are disability discrimination lawyers who represent employees and managers throughout Minnesota who have been wrongfully terminated or treated differently because of their disability.

Significant amendments were made to the Americans with Disabilities Act to make it “easier for an individual seeking protection under the ADA to establish that he or she has a disability within the meaning of the ADA.”  According to the Amendments, the terms of the ADA are to be interpreted broadly to ensure the broadest protections are afforded to disabled employees.  Therefore, interpretation of the ADA and its terms should be focused on whether the employer has complied with their obligations and whether discrimination has occurred rather than on whether an individual meets the definitional requirements. Baillon Thome Jozwiak & Wanta LPP’s disability discrimination lawyers can help you understand your rights under Minnesota and federal disability law.

What It Means to Be “Disabled” Under Disability Discrimination Law

A disability is a condition or characteristic that causes a person to have:

  • A physical, sensory or mental impairment that materially affects a major life activity;
  • A history of or record of such a disability; or
  • A perceived disability, even if you don’t.

For example, the Minneapolis employment lawyers at Baillon Thome Jozwiak & Wanta LLP prevailed at summary judgment in a disability discrimination case in federal court.  In the case Gilbert v. MetLife, 2011 WL 1843441 (D. Minn. Mar. 14, 2011), the court held that genuine issues of material fact existed as to whether the employer did not retain or rehire the Plaintiff, a claims supervisor, because of her disability—laryngeal cancer. The company closed the Bloomington, Minnesota office where Plaintiff had worked, and rehired all the claims supervisors from that office except the plaintiff.  There was also evidence that the employer considered Plaintiff’s cancer in making the decision to not hire her.

Materially Limited” in a “Major Life Activity”

Not every medical condition is considered a disability.  The disability must materially limit the person in a major life activity.  Generally, a disability is “materially limiting” if the condition “materially limits” the ability of the individual to perform a major life activity as compared to most people in the general population.

A “major life activity” includes caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, sitting, reaching, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communication, interacting with others and working.  “Major life activities” also include the operation of major bodily functions such as the immune systems, skin, digestive systems, neurological, respiratory, circulatory, cardiovascular, lymphatic, musculoskeletal and reproductive functions. A disability discrimination attorney can help you to assess your legal protections.

Retaliation Based on Association with the Disabled or Opposing Disability Discrimination is Prohibited

Minnesota and federal law not only protects those with disabilities from discrimination but also protects those associated with a person who is disabled from discrimination or retaliation.  Therefore it would be illegal for your employer to discriminate or retaliate against you because your spouse was disabled.  The law also protects against an employer retaliating against an employee who opposes disability discrimination.  

The disability discrimination lawyers at Baillon Thome Jozwiak & Wanta LLP have also prevailed at summary judgment in a disability retaliation cases.  In one case, Poshek v. Lakeview Hospital, the court found questions of fact existed whether the employer’s termination of Plaintiff was motivated by her reports of discrimination.  Plaintiff was terminated shortly after she reported she believed the employer’s adverse treatment of her was due to her disability and requests for accommodations.  

Employers Must Provide a Reasonable Accommodation

An employer is required to provide a reasonable accommodation to an employee or a job applicant with a disability, unless doing so would cause an undue hardship to the employer - that is, that it would require significant difficulty or expense.

A reasonable accommodation may include:

  • Job restructuring;
  • Part-time or modified work schedules;
  • Reassignment to a vacant position;
  • Acquisition, or modification of equipment or devices;
  • Provision of aides on a temporary or periodic basis (readers/interpreters).

The goal of a reasonable accommodation is to permit a qualified applicant or employee with a disability to enjoy the same privileges of employment equal to those enjoyed by employees without disabilities. 

Minnesota and federal law also prohibits an employer from harassing an employee or applicant because of their disability and creating a hostile work environment.  Harassment includes offensive remarks or communication, whether verbal or written, about a person’s disability.

Contact Our Minnesota Employment Lawyers to Discuss Your Rights
Baillon Thome Jozwiak & Wanta LLP is dedicated to protecting the rights of employees throughout Minnesota. The disability discrimination lawyers at Baillon Thome Jozwiak & Wanta LLP have significant experience litigating, and helping resolve, employment discrimination and retaliation cases. If you are experiencing discrimination or harassing treatment from your employer because of your disability, we want to hear from you. Contact us at 612-252-3570 or click here for a free initial consultation.