Employment Roadblocks for the Disabled

Q: What is disability discrimination?

As disability attorneys in Arizona, our practice is exclusively devoted to helping the disabled get the benefits they deserve.

The first step is qualifying for disability benefits from one or both disability benefits programs administered by the federal government. With respect to disability insurance, both programs define being “disabled “as suffering from a physical or mental impairment that prevents engaging in substantial gainful activities and that his lasted or is expected to last for 12 months or more or result in death.

There are multiple disabilities and combinations of disabilities that satisfy this definition. Some of the qualifying disabilities include physical diseases such as heart, liver, and kidney disease, Chrohn’s disease, COPD, multiple sclerosis, blindness, cancer, and more. Some of the mental impairments include anxiety disorders, PTSD, bipolar disorder, intellectual disability, and more.

Applying for disability benefits is a complicated process best left to attorneys with experience. This is because two-thirds of initial applications are denied. While an applicant can appeal a denial of disability benefits, the backlog of cases waiting for an appeals hearing is continually worsening and is pushing a two-year wait.

Waiting on disability benefits when you are disabled and unable to work is understandably frustrating. But those able to work despite a disability often face a different kind of frustration– and even discrimination– based on their disability.

Recently, an obese woman in California with a stellar 20-year employment history as a manager in a fitness center filed a lawsuit claiming she was fired by a new supervisor as a result of disability discrimination. In support, she claimed her obesity was a disability with a physiological cause as it was genetically predetermined.

In the context of employment discrimination under her state’s Fair Employment and Housing Act, obesity may be a disability if it is proven to have a physiological cause. Employers cannot discriminate based on any worker’s physical disability. To prevail, the employee needs to prove the following:

  • she suffered from a disability
  • she was able to perform the job’s essential duties (with or without reasonable accommodations) and
  • she suffered an “adverse employment action” due to her disability.

If an employee can prove those three things, the burden shifts to the employer to demonstrate a “legitimate nondiscriminatory reason” for the adverse action which the employee can then refute.

Clearly, disabled workers and those no longer able to work can benefit from the assistance of attorneys dedicated to protecting their rights.

If you or a loved one needs assistance applying for disability benefits or appealing the denial of those benefits, the disability attorneys of Arizona at Roeschke Law can help you. Contact us today for a free consultation.

From our offices in Phoenix, Tempe, and Tucson, we represent disabled people and their families throughout Arizona.