Articles Posted in Disability Law

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justice-scales-gavel-fb.jpegChoosing a good lawyer to help you with a case, such as wrongful death, contract dispute, employment termination; asset forfeiture, and excessive force, can be very difficult.

Many blog posts advise you to make sure that (1) you feel comfortable with the lawyer you choose and that (2) the lawyer you choose has sound experience and understanding in the area you need representation in. While all that is true, there is one area that also demonstrates the quality of representation you will be obtaining to handle your case: your lawyer’s willingness and ability to handle an appeal of your case in front of a higher court.

Foremost, you may not read a lot of blog posts that talk about handling an appeal of your case in front of higher courts, because that means something may have went wrong with your case in the lower court. But here’s the reality: when you are going up against cities, school districts; law enforcement officials; public officials; big corporations; and hospitals–whether you win or lose at the lower court (trial court), one party is going to appeal, or threaten to appeal the loss, to the higher court (Appeals Court).

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A family in Gwinnett County are very upset when their 13-year-old child was suspended after voluntarily turning in a pocket knife he had found in his school bag. After complaining, school officials agreed to decrease the number of days he was suspended and rethink the suspension policy.

The young child found the pen knife in the backyard that his aunt had bought second hand at a yard sale and given him as a Christmas gift. As soon as he found the knife, he immediately turned it into his teacher.

Even though it was obviously not the young man’s fault, common sense did not follow and the school foolishly gave the boy a four day in school suspension for violating the school policy on weapons.

Since then, though, school officials have now reduced the boy’s suspension to two days and claim they will “rethink” the policy. Says the boy’s father: “He is a very good child. We’ve never had a discipline problem with him; he is in Boy Scouts, he is very good natured.” Additionally, he told his son, “Jack, you did the right thing. What else could you have done?”

Severe and automatic punishments evolved from the ‘zero-tolerance’ movement which started in the eighties in keeping with the federal anti-weapons and drug policies. But as the AJC reports: over the years, Georgia students have been suspended under zero tolerance “for kissing a girl on the forehead, wearing a studded belt, bringing a French teacher a gift-wrapped bottle of wine and carrying a Tweety Bird wallet with a chain on it.”

In 2009, a similar incident happened when a middle school student accidentally brought a fishing knife to school and ended up being expelled, arrested, convicted of a felony and sent to an alternative program even though he voluntarily gave up the knife to the principal.

This is an example of the type of absurd, common-sense lacking decisions that sometimes occur among school districts as experienced by some of Good Georgia Lawyer’s clients. Fortunately, in response to the 2009 incident, state Senator Emanuel Jones, a Democrat from Decatur, sponsored legislation that required a hearing before taking a student into custody and prohibits charging a student as a designated felon unless the weapon is used in an assault or it is a gun. This bill was signed into law in spring of 2010 by the Governor.

If your son or daughter becomes a victim of this type of common senseless injustice, it can be very helpful to contact an attorney right away to protect your child’s legal rights. Georgia law provides that if there is the potential of a suspension longer than ten days, then O.C.G.A. § 20-2-753 requires a disciplinary hearing where the requirements of O.C.G.A. §20-2-754 are met including providing written notice, entitling the student to be represented by legal counsel and to present evidence.

In this instance, if the period of discipline is shorter than ten days, an attorney is still helpful to protect your child’s rights in these types of extreme instances. If other issues are involved–such as violations of Georgia bullying law or federal disability laws–there can be even greater need to obtain legal counsel.
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disability.jpgUnder federal law, the Americans With Disabilities Act places strict limits on collecting and using an employee’s medical information. Employers should never require a job applicant to take a medical exams or answer medical questions before the employer makes a job offer. However, employers may condition a job offer on the satisfactory result of a post-offer medical exam or inquiry if it is a prerequisite for all new employees in the same job description.

If this post-offer medical exam or inquiry reveals that the person had a disability and the person is consequently not hired, the reason the person was rejected must be related to their job and necessary for the business. Additionally, the employer must also show no reasonable accommodation was available that would have enabled this person to perform the essential job functions, or that if the employer had provided an accommodation it would have posed an undue hardship.

Finally, information from all medical exams and inquiries must be collected and maintained on separate forms, in separate medical files, and must be carefully handled as a confidential medical record. Nonetheless, supervisors and managers may be informed about the necessary restrictions and accommodations required for the employee’s job duties, and safety staff may be informed if the person’s disability could require emergency treatment. There are also exceptions dealing with state workers’ compensation offices, insurance companies, and government investigations.
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