disabled man at work

Can Your Employer Fire You for Performance Issues Caused by a Disability?

By Tom McKinney
NJ Employment Attorney

Title 1 of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects disabled workers when seeking employment and ensures they cannot lose their job solely due to their disability.

Employment law in the United States does get tricky, though. Most workers in the country have at-will jobs, which means they can be terminated without any reason or explanation. 

Yet, the ADA does protect employees who take disability leave or who face termination due to minor performance issues caused by their disabilities. However, the ADA applies only to organizations with 15 or more employees. 

So can your employer fire you due to performance issues related to your disability? It largely depends on your employer and the tasks you’re struggling with.

The ADA Protects Workers from Termination Due to Disability

The ADA makes it illegal for your supervisors to fire you for the sole reason that you have a disability. This law defines a disability as any cognitive or physical impairment that reduces a person’s ability to participate in daily life tasks.

Disabled workers must inform their bosses of any accommodations they need in the workplace. Employers are required to provide these accommodations as long as they do not cause “undue hardship.”

In addition to the ADA, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) protects disabled employees nationwide by requiring employers to allow them up to 12 weeks of unpaid medical leave each year. The regulation applies to companies with 50 or more employees.

Suppose that you cannot work regular hours due to your disability. You can make the case that you need a reasonable accommodation for a certain amount of time off from work to recuperate. However, the courts will consider your job duties and time-off requests when determining whether you were wrongfully terminated.

The ADA Protects Employees Who Have Performance Hurdles Due to Disability

Disabled employees have some protection from termination due to the ADA, even if employers fire them due to poor performance associated with a disability. 

For instance, if you have worsening eyesight and even a new glasses prescription cannot aid you enough, you may have missed important details in a business transaction or the paperwork you filed. 

While your supervisor may associate these errors with poor performance, you might argue that they are due to your disability. 

However, you do need to perform the main functions of the job with reasonable accommodations. In this case, you might ask for a change in your job duties or access to specialized equipment that would allow you to do your job.

If you are fired for this performance issue, you must prove that the issue is due to your disability and that your employer was unwilling to accommodate you. With the help of a quality employment lawyer, you might have a successful outcome.

When Employers Can Terminate Disabled Workers

There are particular situations in which an employer can legally terminate a disabled worker:

  • The employer cannot make accommodations because of an undue hardship
  • The termination has no association with the disability 
  • The employee lacks the ability to do the job with or without accommodations
  • The worker’s disability poses a health and safety risk in the place of business

Along with these four scenarios, disabled workers can also be fired when acting disorderly or threatening to harm others. Nonetheless, the ADA will protect disabled workers from termination cases linked to their medical conditions. 

Contact Our Employment Lawyers When Facing Disability Discrimination

If you have lost your job due to your disability, you might have a valid discrimination case against your former employer. With NJ Employment Lawyers, LLC, you can rely on the expertise of an employment attorney in New Jersey. 

Our lawyers will work with you to determine whether a successful case can be made against your previous workplace. Contact us today.

About the Author
Tom McKinney is a skilled employment law attorney with New Jersey Employment Lawyers LLC. He has a track record of success in all areas of employment law, including sexual harassment, discrimination, harassment, wrongful discharge, whistleblower claims and hostile work environment claims. Besides litigation, Tom handles severance agreements and severance package reviews/negotiations for over 100 people each year. If you have any questions regarding this blog, contact Tom here.