Disability Discrimination

Workplace Discrimination & Wrongful Termination - Disability Discrimination

The law wants people with disabilities to work as productive members of society. The law prohibits employers from discriminating or retaliating against individuals who have a disability. Further, the law requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for the disabled to allow them to perform their jobs.

What legal protections do disabled employees have?

In 1990, the United States Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) which was subsequently amended in 2008. Texas followed congress’s lead and amended Chapter 21 of the Texas Labor Code to include protections for disabled workers.

The ADA protects workers who can perform the “essential functions” of their job with or without a reasonable accommodation.

Discrimination, workplace harassment, and wrongful termination because of disability claims are investigated by the EEOC. There are strict deadlines for filing a disability discrimination claim with the EEOC and/or Texas Workforce Commission, 300 days and 180 days respectively. If you are an employee of the Federal Government, you have 45 days to file a complaint with your EEO office. Contact me, an employment discrimination lawyer, to schedule a consultation as soon as possible if you think you have suffered disability discrimination or wrongful termination.

What is a “disability” for purposes of the ADA?

The ADA defines a disability as:

  • as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities;
  • a record (or past history) of such an impairment; or
  • or being regarded as having a disability.

Common examples of disabilities are:

  • Mental illness such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder;
  • Complicated pregnancies;
  • Cancer;
  • Blindness;
  • Deafness;
  • Alcoholism;
  • Heart issues;
  • Broken bones; and
  • Mobility issues.

Am I entitled to a reasonable accommodation?

The law requires employers to provide a reasonable accommodation. Employers cannot discriminate against employees with disabilities so long as the employee can perform the “essential functions” of the job with or without a reasonable accommodation.

When is an accommodation reasonable?

The courts have not drawn a black and white line to determine whether an accommodation is “reasonable.” Instead, Courts will analyze factors and take into consideration the situation when determining whether a worker’s request for an accommodation is “reasonable.”

Examples of reasonable accomodations:

  • Modifying the workplace, such as installing a ramp or reorganizing a lay out;
  • Allowing employees to make doctor appointments;
  • Light duty;
  • Leave; and
  • Breaks.
For more information on leave issues and FMLA, click here.

Failure to provide a reasonable accommodation

The ADA requires employers to provide a reasonable accommodation to disabled employees. Failure to accommodate can result in legal action. The employer can be forced to provide an accommodation, or if the situation has resulted in lost wages, the employee can seek to recover them.

What is disability discrimination?

Disability discrimination occurs when the employer takes negative employment action or fails to reasonably accommodate an employee with a disability.

Examples of actions an employer cannot legally against employees because of their disability:

  • Wrongful termination;
  • Retaliation;
  • Reduction in hours (unless a reasonable accommodation);
  • Asking about medical issues in an interview;
  • Reduction in pay;
  • Unfavorable assignment; and
  • Failure to promote.

Examples of disability discrimination might look like:

  • Wrongful termination of an employee who discloses a medical condition / disability;
  • Poor treatment because the employer believes someone has a disability;
  • Failing to reasonably accommodate an employee with disabilities;
  • Trying to get rid of an employee with a disability because s/he is a hassle to deal with; and
  • Making fun of someone because of his/her disability.

Contact me, your Houston EEOC Attorney

If you think you have experienced disability discrimination, wrongful termination, or retaliation in your workplace. Contact me know to schedule a consultation.