A disability made communicating at work hard and I was fired — is that legal?

By | August 24, 2020

I am deaf in my left ear and have roughly 50-percent hearing in my right. With lip reading I was able to get by, but now with face masks it has become almost impossible to communicate. I was recently let go by my building as a superintendent, with no explanation or warning. I can’t help but think that my communication problem was the reason. What are my rights?

I am so sorry. As if these times are challenging enough. Generally, employees with disabilities are entitled to reasonable accommodations under Title l of the Americans with Disabilities Act. This applies to private employers with 15 or more employees as well as government employers. The term “reasonable” is subjective and an employer doesn’t have to make an accommodation that would cause undue hardship to the company. You would also have to demonstrate that the reason for your termination was due to your disability. For a position as a super, I would think something could be worked out as a reasonable accommodation. Your employer doesn’t have to give you a reason for your termination, but if you have not received any negative performance-related feedback — and particularly if they are refilling your position — you may want to speak to an attorney. Many employment laws are being reconsidered in light of COVID.

I graduated in May, and searching for a job has been downright dispiriting. I am thinking of just taking a year off. Will that hurt my job prospects?

Well, any employer uninterested in hiring you next year because you took this year off under these circumstances is probably not an employer that you would want to work for anyway. That said, I would definitely spend some time during the year doing something that will help you when you do look for a job again. There’s a difference between spending months playing video games and tanning on the beach (where beach-going is allowed) and using some time to learn new skills or volunteer to a cause. Find the right balance so that you can tell a good story next year, when we are (hopefully) on the other side of this.

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Gregory Giangrande has over 25 years of experience as a chief human resources executive. E-mail your questions to GoToGreg@NYPost.com. Follow Greg on Twitter: @greggiangrande and at GoToGreg.com, dedicated to helping New Yorkers get back to work.

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