Cerebral Palsy is a disorder of movement, muscle tone, or posture resulting in a range of motor dysfunctions or disability of body movement, including poor coordination, irregular or abnormal movements, or slurred speech. Cerebral palsy is caused by an injury to the developing, immature brain, often before birth. The type of motor disorders and level of severity of a given disorder vary with each individual. Additionally, the muscle weakness and coordination problems associated with cerebral palsy lead to a number of complications, which can occur in childhood or can develop later in life, as adults. Some complications include, contracture; the shortening of muscles which can cause bone warping and joint deformity, malnutrition because of difficulty swallowing, depression, breathing or neurological disorders, and osteoarthritis resulting from deformity of joints and pressure on misaligned joints.
As can be expected, these motor disorders and subsequent complications often affect an individual’s ability to perform certain job functions, depending on what they may be. However, there are still many jobs that individuals with cerebral palsy can perform, some with reasonable accommodation, that they are either denied employment or pushed out of because of discrimination. As cerebral palsy can be an impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, it is recognized as a disability within the meaning of the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), and persons with cerebral palsy are protected against employment discrimination.
Employers sometimes view cerebral palsy as a limiting and debilitating condition for all individuals with cerebral palsy, which leads to various scenarios of employment discrimination, before hiring, during the hiring process or after a job has been offered. For instance, an employer may view an individual with cerebral palsy as moving too slow, or incorrectly assume they are incapable of completing a task properly and create a hostile work environment resulting in constructive discharge, or forcing the person out. Other faces of discrimination include a change in job task, reduction of responsibilities, demotions, or the inability to advance. As cerebral palsy can be a very visible disorder, employers can also be discriminatory during the hiring process. As mentioned above, the ADA prohibits discriminatory behavior in the workplace, as many people know, and it also prohibits such behavior during the hiring process. Specifically, employers are prohibited from asking about medical conditions an employee may have, or use of medication. Conversely, employers are permitted to ask if an applicant will need accommodations to complete the application, and can conduct non-medical tests to measure the applicant’s ability to perform job related functions. Once an employer has made a job offer, they can require medical examination provided all applicants are treated the same. However, it is important to know that an employer can only withdraw a job offer if post-offer examination show that employee is unable to perform the essential functions of the position hired for.
Persons on Long Island, in either Nassau or Suffolk counties who have been diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy are within a protected class under the American with Disabilities Act (ADA). This protection means that if you are qualified to perform the essential functions of your job, but have still experienced adverse employment action, you should seek representation from a New York disability lawyer.