Can my employer fire me because I have a medical condition that doesn’t allow me to work in freezer?

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Can my employer fire me because I have a medical condition that doesn’t allow me to work in freezer?

I work at food market as order selector I have a medical condition that doesn’t allow me to be in negative degree temperature. We have 2 – meat/frozen and produce. My employer is firing me for not being able to work in freezer yet there are other people that don’t get put in freezer for religious reason as he cant touch pork. They easily could put me in produce and that would be that instead they want to fire me for being disabled.

Asked on August 10, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, New York

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

If an employee has a "disability" (i.e. a medical condition that can't be or can't easily be controlled and that which has a detrimental impact on their ability to perform daily activities), then the employer must make a "reasonable accommodation" for them. Such an accommodation is a change which is not too costly or disruptive to the company. In your case, accommodating you by not having you work in the freezer due to a medical condition appears to be reasonable since other workers are accomodated for religious reasons. If your employer can reasonably accommodate you but is not, this may be a form of legally actionable discrimination. At this point, you should contact the EEOC or your state's equal or civil rights agency regarding filing a complint against your company. Further, you can also contact a local employment law attorney who can further advise you as to your rights under federal/state law. 

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

If the other people who are allowed to not work in the freezer are also order selectors (and not in different jobs--e.g. cashiers), then this may be illegal disability-based employment discrimination. Clearly, if other food selectors are accommodated, then the employer *could* accommodate you, and an accommodation would be reasonable; that being the case, the failure to accommodate you may be discrimination. Based on what you write, it would be worth your while to contact the federal EEOC or your state equal/civil righs agency about possibly filing a complaint.


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