The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a Federal Law, closely followed by the New Jersey Law against Discrimination (NJLAD). Both provide workers with disabilities that substantially limit major life activities (e.g. walk, talk, breath, see, hear, learn, sit, lift, etc.) to a “reasonable accommodation” in the workplace.
A “reasonable accommodation” will vary from one employer to another and an employer will not be required to make the accommodation if it causes undue hardship. What causes undue hardship to the corner dry cleaner, may be of little consequence to a large corporation. Accommodations might include modifying existing facilities, modified work schedule, modification of equipment, interpreters for hearing and parking or transportation. The employee must be able to accomplish the essential functions of the job with such an accommodation. The federal law applies to business with 15 or more employees whereas the New Jersey law can apply to businesses with as few as one employee. In rare cases, an employer can deny employment where a disability creates a significant risk that the employee harms himself or others, but the laws also provide protections in promotions, training, and termination.
Under the NJ Family and Medical Leave Act, employers with 50 or more employees within a 75 mile radius are subject to the FMLA. It provides workers with a “serious health condition” who have been employed for 12 months or worked at least 1,250 hours in the previous 12 months, of up to 12 weeks of paid and 12 weeks of unpaid leave and it can run concurrent with WC benefits. If a worker is are able to return to work within the initial 12 week period of time, the employer must give the injured worker a similar job with similar benefits. It need not be the same job. If the worker is unable to return to work within the 12 weeks, the employer has no obligation to the worker. However, this does not affect the injured workers entitlement to continued workers’ compensation benefits. Once the worker has been cleared to return to work, he or she may apply for unemployment benefits while seeking re-employment.