There are over 50 diseases and disorders associated with orthopedic impairments. There are three types of orthopedic impairments: neuromotor impairments, those involving the central nervous system, including spina bifida, cerebral palsy and spinal cord injuries; musculoskeletal disorders, involving defects of disease of the bone and muscle; and degenerative diseases, affecting motor movement, such as muscular dystrophy. Causes of orthopedic impairment range and include genetic abnormalities, birth trauma, disease, injury, amputation, and contractures from burns. Well-known conditions include spina bifida, scoliosis, cerebral palsy, and muscular dystrophy. Spina bifida is characterized by a cleft spine or incomplete closure of the spinal cord, with varying levels of severity. Scoliosis is characterized by a side to side curvature of the spine greater than ten degrees. For a complete discussion of cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy, please click the links provided. Treatments for orthopedic impairments include surgery, braces, prosthetics, or orthopedic devices. A “disability” under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such individual; a record of such impairments; or being regarded as having such an impairment. As many orthopedic impairments substantially limit a major life activity, persons with these forms of orthopedic impairments are entitled to protection against discrimination.
Unfortunately, individuals with a physical disability often face unfettered discrimination in the hiring process and at work. Too often, career aspirations of individuals with physical disabilities are frustrated by prejudice in the workplace. Persons with orthopedic impairments, who have the same skills and qualifications as their peers are passed over for job, or promotions. Often, individuals with disabilities have the ability to be contributing members of the workforce with reasonable accommodations; accommodations an employer is required to provide. However, sometimes employers are afraid of the potential cost of accommodations, see them as being unreasonable, or are concerned about continued illness that prevents them from hiring or retaining individuals with physical disabilities. Because of this prejudice and discrimination encountered in the workforce, it is important for individuals with orthopedic impairments to know their rights. Employers are not permitted to ask about medical conditions, use of medication, or treatments and therapies during the application process, and cannot require a medical examination as part of the application process. However, employers are permitted to conduct non-medical testing to ensure that the applicant is capable of performing the essential functions of the position applied for. Additionally, employers are permitted to ask the applicant if he or she will need accommodations to complete the application process, and can require post-offer medical examinations if required for all employees. Discriminatory conduct occurs when employers ask about an applicant’s physical disabilities during the hiring process not as it relates to the essential functions of the position. Discrimination can also occur once an employee is hired such as dismissal, change in responsibility or position, demotion, or continued failure to promote. Similarly, the creation of a hostile work environment by an employer in an effort to make an employee quit is also prohibited discriminatory conduct, when it is done due to employee’s disability.
As mentioned above, persons on Long Island, in either Nassau or Suffolk counties who have an orthopedic impairment are within a protected class under the 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.