Enforcing the Rights of Employees with Intellectual Disabilities

New York Attorneys Enforce the Rights of Employees with Intellectual Disabilities

New York discrimination lawyers know that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects individuals from workplace discrimination and harassment. Under this federal Act, an employer may not discriminate against a person with a physical or mental impairment who is qualified to perform a job with or without a reasonable accommodation. If a disabled individual applies for or has a job and needs a reasonable accommodation, the employer must provide it if doing so will not cause undue hardship to the business. The Act applies to companies with 15 or more employees. Similar New York state law applies to businesses with 4 or more employees.

According to the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics, in 2015:

  • 17% of disabled Americans worked compared to 65% of not-disabled Americans.
  • Across all educational groups, the unemployment rate was higher for disabled individuals than those with no disability.
  • Disabled individuals were nearly twice as likely to work part-time, then people with no disability.
  • Across all age groups, disabled individuals were less likely to be employed than those with no disability.
  • The unemployment rate for those with a disability was more than twice the rate for those without a disability.

The ADA makes it a bit harder for employers to perpetuate statistics like these. Under the ADA it is unlawful to discriminate against a qualified person with a disability in any area of employment including hiring, firing, promoting and compensation. The Act requires that employers make reasonable accommodations and imposes a broad range of obligations and restrictions designed to protect the equal rights of disabled individuals. The ADA also makes it unlawful to harass an employee because of his or her disability or retaliate against a person seeking to enforce legal rights.

Lawyers at Leeds Brown, who protect the rights of disabled employees throughout the New York metropolitan area, can help if you experience discrimination or harassment in the workplace. We fully understand what it takes to prove a complex disability discrimination claim. Our staff has decades of experience handling ADA cases and a thorough understanding of its detailed and complicated provisions.

We can help you document your case, file a charge with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and/or the appropriate New York State and/or New York City agency, negotiate a reasonable accommodation or take your case to trial if that is what is needed to ensure fairness. You may be entitled to monetary damages, reinstatement to your job or promotion and the legal professionals at Leeds Brown have the determination and skill to achieve the results you deserve.

The ADA Covers More than Physical Disabilities

Under the ADA an individual with a disability is someone who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity, has a record or history of having such an impairment or is regarded/perceived as having a disability. Most people think of disability as something purely physical. For example, the inability to get around without a wheelchair, blindness, breathing trouble, inability to use one hand or a speech impediment.

However, the ADA also covers mental impairments which include “intellectual disabilities.” The EEOC reports that there are over 2 million Americans with intellectual disabilities, formerly referred to as mental retardation. In 2008, Congress amended the ADA (the ADA Amendments Act or ADAAA) to make it easier for an individual with an intellectual disability to fall under the definition of disability and receive protection under the statute.

What is an Intellectual Disability?

An intellectual disability is “a disability characterized by significant limitations both in intellectual functioning and in adaptive behavior that affects many everyday social and practical skills.” Adaptive behavior includes basic skills needed for daily living such as self-care, home living, social skills, health, safety, communication, reading, writing, basic arithmetic, self-direction, and work.

A person with an intellectual disability should, according to the ADAAA, come under the meaning of disabled because he or she is “substantially limited in brain function and other major life activities (for example, learning, reading, and thinking).”

An employer may not discriminate against a qualified person with a real or perceived intellectual disability and must make a reasonable accommodation if it does not impose an undue hardship on the business.

Attorneys Explain Reasonable Accommodations for Employees in New York

If you have an intellectual disability that substantially limits a major life activity, and you are qualified to perform the job, there are many ways your employee can provide you with accommodations. The best way to understand what you may be entitled to is to look at some examples published by the EEOC:

Accommodations during the application process –

  • Helping to read and understand the application
  • Having someone demonstrate, not verbally describe, what the job involves
  • In place of a written test, conducting an expanded interview

Accommodations that can help an employee with an intellectual disability perform or enjoy the benefits of the job –

  • Using color coding instead of words
  • Allowing additional time to train or perform a task
  • Using a system of detailed reminders for assignments or the steps in a particular process
  • Providing a job coach to assess, monitor and help the employee learn and successfully perform the job
  • Modifying schedule
  • Changing equipment
  • Relocating workspace
  • Adapting instructions or training

Consider the following scenarios that further demonstrate what an employee with an intellectual disability may expect:

  • As part of his job, an office clerk with an intellectual disability must dress according to company policy but fails to do so. His manager can accommodate him by showing him a series of photographs of appropriately dressed employees and inappropriately dressed ones.
  • A receptionist with an intellectual disability works for a very large company. The receptionist has trouble transferring phone calls because she is unable to recall the extension numbers to push for all of the employees. It takes her quite some time to look up the employees’ names and find the corresponding numbers. The employer may accommodate her by purchasing a large phone with transfer buttons clearly labeled with the name of each employee.
  • A data entry worker with an intellectual disability has difficulty concentrating in his workspace located in a busy, open, communal part of the office. Moving the employee to a quiet spot so he can focus on his work would be a reasonable accommodation.

Contact Us

Having disability discrimination attorneys at Leeds Brown review your circumstances and advocate on your behalf can eliminate much of the stress that can accompany any discriminatory employment situation. If you or someone you know has an intellectual disability or physical disability, we can compassionately and skillfully work toward securing a positive outcome.

Whether your goal is to get a job, accommodation or an award for monetary damages, the lawyers at Leeds Brown, who protect the workplace rights of disabled employees in New York, are here to help.

Contact our law office for a free case evaluation. Someone can be reached 24/7 at 1-800-585-4658. Time may be of the essence so don’t wait. Call today.



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Shortly after beginning medical school, I experienced some academic difficulties. After seeing my physicians, I was diagnosed with ADHD. After I started receiving specific treatment for ADHD, I requested the school to accommodate me for the disability as recommended by my physician. One of the requests made was for extended time to take my exams. The extension of time was granted...

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Partner at Gardere Wynne Sewell LLP
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