Philadelphia Employment Law News

Disability Discrimination and Accomodation: 3 Common Cases

Anti-discrimination laws exist in every state to prevent discrimination against employees based on disability and other protected categories. Both Pennsylvania law and federal law require Philadelphia businesses to afford those employees some reasonable accommodations.

Here are three common situations in which a business is legally required to accommodate an employee and prohibited from discrimination:

1. Breastfeeding at Work.

Under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, businesses must give a non-exempt employee reasonable break time to breastfeed her child at work for up to a year after the child is born.

In some states, like Texas, the courts have upheld businesses' right to deny their employees breastfeeding time, finding no sex or disability discrimination from doing so.

Pennsylvania is not one of those states, however, and under the Freedom to Breastfeed Act, mothers are permitted to breastfeed their children in public or private as long as the mother is allowed to be there.

2. Service/Support Animals.

The Pennsylvania Human Relations Act makes it explicitly illegal for any employer to refuse to hire a potential employee based on "the use of a guide or support animal because of the blindness, deafness, or physical handicap of any individual."

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines service animals as dogs trained to perform tasks for people with:

  • Blindness,
  • Hearing impairment,
  • Physical disabilities impairing movement,
  • Seizures, or
  • PTSD.

A Philadelphia area employer would need to make reasonable accommodations under federal and state law for an employee's service dog

3. Hiring Employees With HIV.

The U.S. Supreme Court clarified in 1998 that persons infected with HIV are considered disabled for purposes of ADA laws. Not hiring someone based on HIV status can be considered illegal discrimination.

Even in the case of professions where infectious diseases are concerns, such as dentists or barbershops, Pennsylvania's Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs makes an exemption for licensees living with HIV.

Philadelphia's Fair Practices Ordinance prohibits discrimination based on disability and sexual orientation, which is broader than the federal employment protections. If you have specific questions about disability discrimination, you may want to consult an experienced Philadelphia employment lawyer.

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