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Your Protection Against Disability Discrimination

Bill Thomas was general manager at Birmingham sports-talk radio station WJOX-FM when he was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. He was dismissed from his job just six days after informing his superiors, although he felt able to continue working as usual.

Mr. Thomas is suing the owner of the radio station, Cumulus Media, for wrongful termination in federal court. He seeks reinstatement into his position, back pay from when he was fired, legal fees and other damages.

What are my rights if my employer discriminates against me?

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, an employer is prohibited from discriminating against an employee or candidate for employment on the basis of his or her disability when making decisions concerning promotion, hiring, pay, dismissal or other issues. Under federal law, you could be defined as having a disability for:

  • A mental or physical impairment that hinders your everyday functions substantially, such as walking, eating, seeing, speaking, lifting or working
  • A record of having such an impairment
  • Being someone perceived as having such an impairment

Mr. Thomas’ bosses seemed to terminate his employment because of their perception that his medical condition would limit his ability to carry out his work duties. If so, this would constitute a breach of federal discrimination laws. An employer may have a defense in certain situations, such as if your disability stems from an infectious disease that presents a health risk to others.

What compensation can I get from my employer?

If your employer has breached its duty not to discriminate against you for your disability, you can sue for compensatory and punitive damages. You are entitled to punitive damages if you can demonstrate that your employer was malicious or recklessly indifferent to your rights in discriminating against you for your disability. You have the right to request trial by jury, in which case there is no limit on the amount of compensatory and punitive damages you can be awarded.

If you believe you are facing discrimination at work due to a disability, get in touch with a renowned Alabama employment rights lawyer to discuss your case.