Oct 4

Disability Discrimination is Illegal in Montana

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What Montana Employees Must Prove to Win a Disability Discrimination Case

It is illegal for an employer to discriminate against an employee because of physical or mental disability unless the job has unique requirements that a disabled person cannot perform.  Discrimination based on a disability includes the failure to make reasonable accommodations that are required by an otherwise qualified person who has a disability.

A person with a physical disability is qualified to hold an employment position if the person can perform the essential functions of the job with or without a reasonable accommodation for the person’s physical or mental disability.  An employer has a duty to provide a reasonable accommodation to a person with a physical or mental disability if, with such accommodation, the person could perform the job.  This duty to make reasonable accommodations is an essential part of Montana’s antidiscrimination statutes.

To establish what lawyers call “a prima facie case of discrimination disability” you’ll need to show (1) that you have a disability, (2) that you are qualified to perform the essential functions of the job, with or without reasonable accommodation, and (3) that you suffered an adverse employment action because of your disability.  Discrimination includes not making reasonable accommodations to the known physical or mental limitations of an otherwise qualified individual with a disability unless the employer can demonstrate that the accommodation would cause the employer an “undue hardship” in the operation of the employer’s business.   You can use what is called either direct or circumstantial evidence of discrimination to prove your case.  And this is where it gets tricky for the average employees trying to represent themselves without an attorney.  The employer will not make it easy to find direct evidence, and that’s where you should obtain the help of an experienced employment lawyer.

There was a recent pro-employee decision from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, Feist v. Louisiana, which Christopher McKinney discussed on the Texas Employment Law Blog.  As noted by Mr. McKinney, while the ADA has always been clear that an employee “enjoy[s] equal benefits and privileges of employment as are enjoyed by its other similarly situated employees without disabilities,” district courts have not always interpreted this way.  Now some of the appellate courts are making it clear that employers must do so.

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