In the state of New Jersey and around the country, laws against discrimination require employers to make reasonable accommodations for people’s disabilities. The laws also provide workers the ability to file a discrimination lawsuit when those accommodations aren’t made. An immigrant to the United States recently filed one of these claims after the new owner of a factory where he’d worked for three decades removed his disability accommodation, ignored his doctors’ pleas, and eventually fired him.
Javier Amigon came to the United States from Mexico in 1988 at the age of 28, three years after he’d been beaten unconscious during a robbery. Following the beating he’d been tied to railroad tracks and run over by a train, leaving him with a permanently mangled leg and foot. After immigrating and settling in Hudson Valley in New York he found work at a nail polish factory, placing caps on bottles of nail polish. His bosses had always allowed him and others to lean on stools on the assembly line intermittently. He worked there for nearly three decades. But when the factory was purchased by New Jersey-based Kirker Enterprises in 2015, everything changed.
Six months after the arrival of the new owners, employees were informed that nobody was allowed to sit on the production line, and Amigon’s stool was taken from him, as were everybody else’s, and thrown in a dumpster. A supervisor who was questioned about the matter reportedly made belittling comments to those looking for an explanation or reconsideration of the policy. Though Amigon attempted to do his work without the help of the stool, he found that standing without rest was too much for him. “I tried to do the work standing for four days, and eventually my right foot was bleeding and the skin was ripping,” Amigon said. Though he brought in doctors’ notes indicating that his disability required the use of the stool, and that it had never interfered with his ability to do the job, the company’s officials denied the accommodation, saying that if he was given a stool then every employee would want one. Eventually the company fired him in June of 2016, leading to his wrongful termination lawsuit.
Mr. Amigon is not the only one filing a claim against Kirker Enterprises. The company is also being sued for disability discrimination by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for their treatment of him.
The courts have held that the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination creates an affirmative duty to engage in an “interactive process” with employees who have disabilities, making them responsible for actively engaging to see whether a reasonable accommodation is possible. The question of whether the law has been violated is answered with four basic questions:
- Did the employer know about the employee’s disability?
- Did the employee request accommodations or assistance for his disability?
- Did the employer make a good faith effort to assist the employee in seeking accommodations?
- Could the employee have been reasonably accommodated but for the employer’s lack of good faith?
If you have been denied the ability to work or mistreated because of a disability in the state of New Jersey, you may have a right to file a disability discrimination claim. For more information, contact us today to set up an appointment to discuss your situation.