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In today’s episode of Legal Live, Peter Riley of the Tom Riley Law Firm answers a question about a possible wrongful termination based on a protected class.
A viewer asked, “I have a speech impediment and feel I was fired from my job due to it. I had not been in trouble or anything with my employer. What options do I have?”
“You may have a disability discrimination claim,” says Peter. “The first issue is going to be ‘Is a speech impediment a disability?’ And under most circumstances it is. A second question is ‘Does the job require someone who doesn’t have a speech impediment?’ Like a disc jockey or someone who makes announcements. Assuming the ability to speak without difficulty is not an element of the job, then that’s a disability.”
He says then comes the legal pursuit of whether this was discrimination.
“If employment action is taken against someone with a disability, then that creates a presumption of discrimination, and then the burden shifts to the employer to show a non-discriminatory reason [for the firing],” says Peter. “And then the employee can rebut that showing ‘Here’s why you really did it.’”
Race, sex, gender identity, age, disability, and religion are all protected classes through the federal Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) law.
“Anyone who is discriminated against, if they’re in a protected class...has the right to make a claim,” says Peter.
Other questions from viewers focused on personal injury lawyer insurance and lawsuits, the legal definition of negligence, timelines on default judgements in small claims court, and the need for hiring a private investigator for a lawsuit.