Paralysis is the complete loss of muscle function of one or more muscle groups. The paralysis or muscle weakness can be localized, effecting only one muscle, or generalized, effecting an entire region of the body, or it can follow certain patterns. Paralysis and muscle weakness is caused by nerve damage. Damage can be in the brain or spinal cord (the central nervous system) or in the nerves surrounding the spinal cord. Damage to the brain can be caused by tumor, stroke, trauma, multiple sclerosis or cerebral palsy. Damage to the spinal cord is more often caused by trauma, but can also be caused by tumor, herniated discs, rheumatoid arthritis of the spine, neurodegenerative diseases, multiple sclerosis. There is a fine line between paralysis and muscle weakness, and often conditions that cause muscle weakness can degrade to paralysis, and individuals can rebuild muscles and regain movement in paralyzed limbs. Treatment must focus on the underlying cause in order to be effective, and often includes physical therapy or occupational therapy. 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 types of paralysis, both localized and generalized have the potential to substantially limit a major life activity, persons with those forms of paralysis are entitled to protection against discrimination.

Paralysis can occur during or have a prolonged effect into an individual’s working age. Workers are physically limited by the paralysis, but also suffer from further complications that make working difficult, including limb deformity, blood clots, pressure sores, osteoporosis, repertory and urinary tract infections, and fluctuating blood pressure and body temperature. An individual’s physical condition, or the existence of the described symptoms may make reasonable accommodations necessary to perform the essential functions of their position. Additionally, these conditions and symptoms may require time off during flare ups or a reduced schedule in order to accommodate physical or occupational therapy. A physical disability, such as paralysis; both localized and generalized, is a visible condition. This may bring on discrimination during the hiring process. Employers may view individuals with paralysis as being mentally, rather than physically impaired, or may have formed stereotypes and prejudices regarding their ability to work and the expectation of continued illness. These prejudices can manifest themselves in discriminatory conduct. Employers are forbidden to ask an applicant about medical conditions, treatments or use of medication. Employers are also prevented from requiring medical examination during the application process. They are only permitted to inquire about accommodations needed during the application process, and can require non-medical testing to determine if an applicant is capable of performing the essential to the position applied for. Prejudices can also manifest once an individual with paralysis is hired. Employers sometimes change responsibilities to effectuate a demotion, without a change in title, or continually failing to promote. Alternatively, employers may create a hostile working environment in an effort to get an employee to quit. If these employment actions are taken based on an individual’s disability, rather than merit they are discriminatory.

Persons suffering from paralysis, episodic paralysis, or muscle weakness are considered disabled under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and are therefore entitled to protection against discrimination. If you live in the metro New York area, including Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island, the Bronx, and Manhattan, or on Long Island, in either Nassau or Suffolk County, and have experienced discrimination in the workplace because of your paralysis or related conditions, you should contact a New York disability attorney.

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