How the Tech Industry’s Expectation of Long Hours Might Constitute New Jersey Disability Discrimination

The technology industry is gaining prominence in New Jersey. A list of the five hundred fastest-growing tech companies from last year included sixteen New Jersey companies. A strong tech industry can bring many benefits to state and local economies, but the tech industry also has its share of problems. The industry’s struggles with age and gender discrimination have received a great deal of media attention. A common feature in the tech industry that does not receive as much attention, in the context of employment law, is the expectation that employees work long hours. Despite research suggesting that longer hours do not translate into greater productivity or value, numerous industries continue to view working far in excess of forty hours per week as both a rite of passage and an ongoing necessity. It may also, according to some critics, be a form of New Jersey disability discrimination.

The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) and the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of disability. N.J. Rev. Stat. § 10:5-12(a), 42 U.S.C. § 12112(a). The ADA defines a disability in very general terms as a “physical or mental impairment” that impedes a person’s “major life activities.” 42 U.S.C. § 12102(1). Employers must make “reasonable accommodations” for employees with disabilities, defined to include both modifications for physical accessibility and modifications to shift schedules or job duties. Id. at § 12111(9).

The popular perception of a “disability” in the workplace probably involves a person with impaired mobility, or who is otherwise unable to perform some physical aspect of a job, such as lifting heavy objects. This is far from the only type of disability. Impairments affecting eyesight or hearing, for example, could qualify as a disability under the ADA. Chronic illnesses that affect energy levels of energy can also be considered disabilities. People who experience ongoing fatigue because of a medical condition may not be able to work more than forty hours per week, let alone eighty or more hours. The tech industry reportedly does not track disability among its employees, so it is difficult to know the extent of the issue.

When assessing whether an individual with a chronic illness may have experienced disability discrimination in the form of a demand for excessive work hours, it is important to consider what sort of accommodations they may expect under the ADA. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s guidelines on disability discrimination state that employees with disabilities are not entitled to lower performance standards than other workers. This is where research into the relationship, or lack thereof, between long hours and productivity comes into play. People who work long past forty hours per week are not, on average, more productive than other workers. A recent court decision seems to support the view that more hours are not inherently better, holding that “merely stating that anything less than full-time employment is per se unreasonable will not relieve an employer of its ADA responsibilities.” Hostettler v. College of Wooster, 895 F. 3d 844, 857 (6th Cir. 2018).

The knowledgeable and experienced employment lawyers at the Resnick Law Group represent job seekers, employees, and former employees in New Jersey and New York, advocating for their rights in claims for disability discrimination and other unlawful employment practices. Please contact us today at 973-781-1204, at 646-867-7997, or online to schedule a confidential consultation with a member of our team.

More Blog Posts:

Workers Claim Disability Discrimination Based on Sleep Apnea, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, April 27, 2018

ADA Prohibits Discrimination by New Jersey Employers Because of Disability and Requires Them to Make Reasonable Accommodations, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, March 15, 2018

Court Ruling on Medical Marijuana Could Affect New Jersey Disability Discrimination Law, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, November 16, 2017

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