Both the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Texas Labor Code Chapter 21 prohibit employment discrimination based on disabilities in most workplaces in Texas. If you think you’ve been subjected to discrimination because of your disability, you may have a basis to bring a complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC).
Individuals qualified as having disabilities under federal and state laws have a physical or mental disability that substantially limits at least one of their major life activities, have a record of having such a disability, or are perceived as having this type of disability. Major life activities under the ADA include caring for yourself, performing physical tasks, seeing, hearing, sleeping, eating, walking, standing, bending, lifting, reading, concentrating, thinking, and breathing. Major life activities also include the proper operation of a major bodily function, such as neurological function, brain function, or endocrine function. “Disability” is supposed to be defined broadly.
An impairment that substantially limits a single major life activity doesn’t need to limit any other major life activity in order to be considered a disability that is covered by the ADA. Even impairments that are episodic or in remission may be disabilities if they would significantly restrict a major life activity when active or not in remission.
For example, if you are paralyzed, this limits your ability to move, a major life activity, so you are disabled. However, you may also be disabled if you have bipolar disorder, which impairs your ability to care for yourself. Similarly, you may also be protected as disabled if your coworkers believe your cancer-in-remission is disabling. However, an employer is still permitted to base employment decisions on the basis of your using drugs or alcohol — substance abuse issues are not considered a disability, and you can still be held to the same performance standards as other workers if you abuse controlled substances or liquor.
Sometimes pregnancy or a pregnancy-related condition presents a disability. In such cases, you may have grounds to sue for both disability discrimination and pregnancy discrimination. For example, a camp in Texas recently settled a disability and pregnancy discrimination lawsuit that was filed by a registrar for the camp who claimed she was demoted when she became pregnant and developed gestational diabetes, even though she’d never asked for a job reassignment or stated she couldn’t perform her job tasks.
Whether an impairment substantially limits a major life activity is a determination that needs to be made without paying attention to whether an individual makes efforts to mitigate the disability, such as by taking medication, using medical equipment, wearing cochlear implants, using assistive technology, going to therapy, or wearing glasses.
Your employer cannot refuse to promote you, terminate you, refuse you training, or fire you because you have a disability as defined under Texas and federal laws. Harassment based on a disability is a form of discrimination, and it’s illegal. As long as you are qualified for a job, an employer also can’t refuse to provide you with a reasonable accommodation for your disability unless providing the accommodation would cause an undue hardship.
It can be important to obtain representation from an experienced employment lawyer when you have a dispute with your employer regarding discrimination or other matters. Contact us at (214) 528-6500 or via our online intake form.
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