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Pennsylvania Employment Law Attorney Tries Case of First Impression

February 12th, 2012

Philadelphia Disability  Discrimination  Lawyer, Sidney L. Gold, Proves Stuttering is a Disability under Pennsylvania Human Relations Act

Well-respected Philadelphia Employment Discrimination attorney, Sidney L. Gold, of the Employment Law Firm of Sidney L. Gold & Associates, recently won an important battle in the fight against discrimination in the workplace against individuals with speech impairments, namely stuttering.  Although ultimately the Judge in the case, the Honorable John M. Younge, found that the actions of the plaintiff’s employer did not amount to discrimination, he did opine that the plaintiff’s stuttering was in fact a disability under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA). This case is very important in that it is the first time a Pennsylvania state court addressed the issue of stuttering as a disability under the PHRA.

The Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, was signed into law on July 26, 1990, expanding the rights of disabled individuals on the federal level. The PHRA was amended the following year, adopting ADA standards for defining and prohibiting discrimination based on a disability.  Under the PHRA, it is illegal to discriminate in employment against an individual with a “disability” defines as:

(1) a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities;

(2) a record of having such an impairment; or

(3) being regarded as having such an impairment by your employer.

Claims under the PHRA are analyzed in the same way as claims arising under the ADA. In ADA cases, the federal courts have held that the issue of whether a stuttering condition constitutes a disability is determined by a review of the specific facts to the case. The court must examine the facts and circumstances presented by the plaintiff and determine if a plaintiff’s condition meets one of the outlined definitions of “disability”. For that reason, not all stuttering impediments are ruled as “disabilities” for the purpose of an ADA or PHRA claim.

In Mr. Gold’s case of first impression in Pennsylvania, he successfully presented evidence to show that the plaintiff’s stuttering disorder was an actual disability as defined by the PHRA. He provided lay and expert witness testimony and reports that outlined how the stuttering had substantially affected the plaintiff’s life experiences. Relying on the evidence presented by Mr. Gold, Judge Younge found that the plaintiff’s speech impediment was “a permanent medical condition that substantially impairs Plaintiff’s major life activities of speaking, breathing, and communicating with others.”

Call  our Pennsylvania Disability Discrimination Lawyers Today

When you are subjected to discrimination in the workplace, it is important to consult with a Pennsylvania employment attorney who understands the applicable laws.  Before the court will make a determination as to whether your employer’s actions amount to discrimination or a hostile workplace, your attorney must effectively present evidence that the discrimination laws are in fact applicable in your case.  While in some cases, the basis of discrimination may be quite obvious, such as race or gender, other claims may require a more in depth review of the facts, such as in this particular case addressing stuttering.  If you feel that you’ve been a victim of discrimination in your Pennsylvania workplace, contact the Philadelphia employment discrimination attorneys at Sidney L. Gold & Associates to discuss the merits of your case.

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