Disability Rights

Disability rights range from direct and indirect forms of employment and housing discrimination, to Social Security and private Long Term Disability rights, to accommodation rights under employment or housing statutes.

Each cause of action relating to disability rights has its own distinct statutory framework. Accordingly, whether the disabled individual seeks a remedy on workplace rights (e.g. discharge, accommodation), or can medically no longer work, careful attention and dedicated advocacy is the hallmark of this representation. Many issues involve specific facts and analysis applicable only to that particular individual.

As described elsewhere on this site, Long Term Disability and Social Security disability have their own separate headings and detailed descriptions are contained therein.

The firm represents disabled individuals throughout Ohio and across the country, with jurisdiction typically lying in both state and federal courts for discrimination cases, and in both administrative and federal courts for Social Security cases.

The law states that it is unlawful to discriminate against a disabled individual in either the workplace or in housing. R.C. 4112.01, et seq. This state statute parallels a federal statute. Both hold that "It shall be an unlawful discriminatory practice . . . [f]or any employer, because of the race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, age, or ancestry of any person, to discharge without just cause, to refuse to hire, or otherwise to discriminate against that person with respect to hire, tenure, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, or any matter directly or indirectly related to employment." Depending on the circumstances, either the federal or state statute, or both, may be advantageous to use.

In order to establish a prima facie case of disability discrimination under R.C. 4112.02, a plaintiff must demonstrate:

  1. That he or she was disabled;
  2. That an adverse employment action was taken by an employer, at least in part, due to the plaintiff's disability; and
  3. That the plaintiff can safely and substantially perform the essential functions of the job with or without a reasonable accommodation.

    Columbus Civ. Serv. Comm. v. McGlone (1998), 82 Ohio St.3d 569, 571.

Once a plaintiff has satisfied the elements under R.C. 4112, the burden then shifts to the employer to establish a non-discriminatory basis for its actions. * * * Legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons for the action taken by the employer may include, but are not limited to, the inability of the employee or prospective employee to safely and substantially perform, with reasonable accommodation, the essential function of the job in question. Hood v. Diamond Prods., Inc. (1996) 74 Ohio St.3d 298, 302. The first element of the prima facie case requires that the individual be handicapped. "'Handicap' means a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, including the functions of caring for one's self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working; a record of a physical or mental impairment; or being regarded as having a physical or mental impairment" R.C. 4112.01(A)(13). Many arguments within a disability case focus on the definitions and qualifications of disability, substantial limitation, etc.

This office has established key precedent in employment disability rights. In Ross v. Campbell South Co., 232 F.36 701, 706 (6th Cir. 2001), the Court held that a disability discrimination plaintiff can establish the first element of the prima facie case for discrimination by showing that the employer "regarded him as disabled" and subsequently took an adverse employment action against him. Although Mr. Ross initially lost, the Federal Court of Appeals in this region reversed the finding and remanded the case back for trial.

In employment, an individual may identify special accommodations that they may ask for, from an employer, in order that they may be better able to perform his or her job. For example, employees can request a hoist or a sit-stool option, or modified work hours, if their disability interferes with their ability to do the job. A fundamental underpinning to these accommodation rights is that the employee must still be able to do the essential functions of the job. Wooten v. Columbus Div. Of Water (1993), 91 Ohio App.3d 326, 332-333; Ohio Adm. Code 4112-5-08(E)(1). However, the employer bears the burden of proving that any proposed accommodation is unreasonable (i.e., an undue hardship). Taylor v. Phoenixville School Dist., (C.A. 3, 1999), 184 F.3d 296, at 318; Ohio Adm. Code 4112-5-08(E)(1). The employer is required to engage in an interactive process if any such accommodation is requested. Pflanz v. City of Cincinnati, (1st Distr. 2002), 149 Ohio App.3d 743, 756 .

The remedies available to a plaintiff in claiming employment discrimination are much broader than the limited remedies of the past. See Rice v. CertainTeed Corp. (1999), 84 Ohio St.3d 417, 419, 704 N.E.2d 1217, 1219 (finding that the term "damages" in R.C. 4112.99 is "an inclusive term embracing the panoply of legally recognized pecuniary relief" such as compensatory and punitive damages).