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Court clears New Jersey employer of disability discrimination

As an employer, it is often necessary to make tough decisions. Occasionally, these decisions will affect the lives of others, and this is particularly the case when it comes to decisions about an employee’s responsibilities or fitness for a job. Such matters should always be handled with care — if the individuals concerned feel they have been unfairly treated, this can result in employment litigation. Such was the case in New Jersey recently.

A business that deals in the distribution of pharmaceutical products recently faced accusations of disability discrimination from one of its employees. The female employee, who worked in one of the company’s warehouses, had been failing to meet quotas for more than three months. Being only 4 feet, 10 inches tall, she struggled to reach items on the higher shelves, despite being provided with step stools and grabbing sticks. Her two artificial hips also hindered her.

Having been dismissed from her job, this employee took the matter to the Superior Court of New Jersey, claiming that the company did not provide reasonable accommodations for her disability. However, the court dismissed the claims, pointing out that the employee had not requested accommodation from the company. Furthermore, the court ruled that there was no accommodation that the company could have made to enable her to perform the primary duties of her position.

This decision is heartening news for other businesses in New Jersey. Discrimination charges can be severely detrimental to a business. It is important for employers to be able to protect themselves from claims made against them. When terminating employment contracts, it is necessary to do so fairly and considerately to avoid being accused of wrongful discharge. It is wise to acquire a good understanding of employment law in order to make the best possible decisions for the protection of yourself and your business.

Source: HR BLR, “Disabilities: Did New Jersey employer fail to accommodate disability?” Jeffrey A. Gruen, Feb. 17, 2014

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