Almost 29 million people over 16 years old had a disability. Of these,
approximately 6,000,000, or 21 per cent, were in the labor force, compared with almost 150,000,000 million people without a disability, for a 68 per cent participation rate.
Discrimination is prohibited under both New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination (the LAD), and the federal Americans With Disabilities Act (the “ADA”. New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination considers a wide range of conditions to be “disabilities,” thus providing a far more extensive scope of coverage than the Americans With Disabilities Act. New Jersey’s courts have expressly ruled that a disability does not need to be severe. Examples demonstrating this wide scope of coverage include court rulings that the following are protected disabilities: obesity; alcoholism; heart attacks; back ailments; varicose veins; cancer; removal of the kidneys, adrenal glands, lymph nodes and ribs; mastectomies; coronary bypass surgery; alcoholism and other substance abuse; gender dysphoria; transsexualism; and shoulder and arm injuries.
Indeed even perceived handicaps are protected.
Disability discrimination in any manner is prohibited under both acts. However, disability discrimination generally falls into three areas – direct adverse termination actions, harassment, and failure to accommodate.
Adverse employment action discrimination is straightforward. An employer may not fire, fail to promote, pay less, or in any other way treat a disabled employee differently than an able-bodied employee solely because of her disability, provided the employee can perform her job with “reasonable accommodation.”
Second, an employer may not harass an employee because of her disability to the point of creating a severe or pervasive hostile work environment. Examples of harassment include name calling, offensive remarks about the employee’s disability, public (in front of co-workers or customers, etc.) criticism or yelling, inconsistent treatment (for example, giving a work schedule which is more inconvenient that those given to non-disabled employees, or denying training opportunities), intentional exclusion from critical work meetings or social functions; displaying offensive materials at work; unfair or disparate denial of vacation; threats of discipline or firing; and physical violence or intimidation.