Lost Body Parts

Approximately 2 million people in the United States are living with limb loss. The most common causes of limb loss are vascular disease and trauma. New surgical techniques, early rehabilitation, and improved prosthetic designs have all contributed to improved long term outcomes for amputees. These improved outcomes mean that many individuals with limb loss are remaining in the workforce. Individuals with limb loss living on Long Island or in the New York metro area including Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island, the Bronx, and Manhattan, are protected against discrimination in the workplace by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). To have a qualifying disability under the ADA an individual must have a physical or mental impairment that significantly limits one or more major life activities of the individual. Loss of body parts has been regarded as a significantly limiting physical impairment.

Loss of a body part has been compared to loss of a loved one, as individuals in both circumstances undergo similar patterns of grief. This makes it clear why loss of a body part often has distinct psychological consequences, including depression and anxiety, tied to both loss of body image and loss of function. Loss of limb can occur due to surgical amputation, which is necessary when pervasive infections will not go away and resist treatment, if an individual has experienced severe burns or frostbite, the presence of a tumor, or poor blood flow to a limb. Alternatively, loss of limb can occur due to traumatic amputation, where the loss of a body part is the result of an accident or injury, such as a farm or factory accident, car accident, natural disaster, war and terrorist attacks. Individuals who have undergone traumatic amputation are more likely to be depressed, and also experience residual limb pain more often than those who lost a limb not due to trauma.

Unfortunately, individuals with a physical disability, such as amputation or loss of a body part, often face unfettered discrimination in the hiring process and at work. Too often, career aspirations of amputees and those who have lost body parts are frustrated by prejudice in the workplace. Persons with limb loss, who have the same skills and qualifications as their peers are passed over for job, or promotions. Some amputees have expressed that as soon as a potential employer notices a prosthetic, the applicant is no longer considered for the job. Because of this prejudice and discrimination experienced in the workforce, it is important for individuals with limb loss, and other lost body parts to know their rights.

Often an amputee only requires reasonable accommodations in order to properly complete the essential functions of a position. Employers are required under the ADA to provide such reasonable accommodations. However, employers are often unaware of the actual extent of accommodation needed and perceive the possible employment of an amputee as unnecessarily expensive or risky. This wrongful perception amounts to discrimination and can compel discriminatory conduct during the hiring process, such as asking an applicant about medical conditions, treatments or medication, or requiring an applicant to undergo a medical examination – all of which are prohibited. An employer is only permitted to ask about a disability as it relates to necessary accommodations in the application process, and is permitted to ask non-medical questions about an applicant’s ability to complete the essential functions of the position applied for. Further, once hired, employers are forbidden to take adverse employment action based on an employee’s disability, including firing, demotions, changes in responsibilities effectuating a demotion, and failure to promote.

If you are living with limb loss or loss of a body part and have experienced employment discrimination, you are protected under the ADA and should contact a New York disability attorney to properly assert your rights.

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