Articles Posted in Disability Rights

Dallas Employment Lawyer Fadi Yousef

Dallas Employment Lawyer Fadi Yousef

Earlier this month, Sheryl Sandberg announced her resignation from Facebook parent Meta Platforms, Inc. Her departure was a surprise to many people. Ms. Sandberg was the Chief Operating Officer of one of the biggest and most powerful companies in the world. She was the primary reason why Facebook scaled from a company with $153 million in revenue and 500 employees in 2007 to its current size, with more than 77,000 employees.

This past week, the Wall Street Journal reported that Ms. Sandberg decided to leave Meta after a years-long process of battling job burnout. She felt like she had become a punching bag for the company’s problems and that she was targeted in a way that would not happen to a man, according to the Journal. This caused Ms. Sandberg to become disconnected from the business and less visible publicly.

The death by suicide of Cheslie Kryst was a big wake up call. Mental illness is prevalent amongst Americans now more than ever. According to data collected by Mental Health America, Texas is the second most prevalent state for mental illness.  As a Texas employee, you should be aware of the resources available to you. 

Historically, many cultures have viewed mental illness as a form of religious punishment or demonic possession. Negative attitudes toward mental illness persisted into the 18th century in the United States, leading to stigmatization of mental illness, and confinement of mentally ill individuals. As a society, we still have negative views of and oftentimes downplay the severity mental disabilities. In fact, I just watched an episode of the Bachelor where one contestant mocked another because she suffered from ADHD. I was disgusted by such a display of ignorance, but at the same time, was proud that mental health was being talked about on a such a widely televised platform. 

I say that to say that although there are individuals who still have negative attitudes toward mental illness, it is no longer a taboo topic that we must be hush hush about. In 2021, approximately 19% of adults experienced a mental illness, which is equivalent to 47 million Americans. In addition, 7.67% of adults reported substance abuse disorders in 2021. Approximately 10.7 million or 4.34% of adults experienced severe suicidal thoughts in 2021. These are just the statistics for adults. Children also experienced high rates of depression, substance abuse, and suicidal thoughts.

Employment Lawyer Deontae Wherry

Dallas Employment Lawyer Deontae Wherry

COVID-19 has dictated much of our daily activities over the last 20 months. It seems that COVID-19 is not going away anytime soon neither is the vaccine mandate. Yesterday, President Biden’s administration fulfilled its promise that it would take more aggressive steps in getting more Americans vaccinated. The administration announced additional vaccine mandates affecting more than 100 million workers. In this article, I will explain what this mandate means for employees.

Coverage

Rasha Zeyadeh writes about Biden’s vaccine mandate for large employers in NewsBreak:

“President Biden’s new sweeping vaccine mandate could impact more than 100 million Americans. Federal employees have 75 days to get the Covid-19 vaccine or face termination. Private employers with 100 or more employees must require employees to either get vaccine or to submit to weekly testing. Private employers who do not comply with the mandate could face hefty fines for each violation. Disability and Religious exemptions are the only way around Biden’s mandate.”

Ms. Zeyadeh represents employees in Dallas, Texas.

deontae-wherryBy all accounts, we can agree that the year 2020 was unconventional in every way. We were forced to live our lives in ways that many of us never imagined. And when we thought things were going to get better, it seems things only got worse. As we enter into the new year, it is our hope that our best days are ahead of us with the newly approved COVID-19 vaccine (“vaccine”). 

No one knows how long it will be before everyone is vaccinated or even if the rushed vaccine will work. In fact, according to the Pew Research Center, while Americans’ confidence in the vaccine is increasing, many groups remain hesitant about getting vaccinated. It is becoming clear that whether we want the vaccine or not, employers are going to have a critical role in the administration of the vaccine.  This article discusses employees’ rights as it relates to employer-mandate vaccinations. 

On December 16, 2020, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) published its guidance related to workplaces requiring the COVID-19 vaccine. This guidance helps us better understand what we can expect in the days and months ahead. Nevertheless, employers must not violate employment laws in mandating or administrating the vaccine. 

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Many Texas employers require potential applicants and current employees to submit to drug testing. Federal and Texas laws permit private employers to adopt and implement broad drug and alcohol testing policies for their employers, with minimal limitations. However, according to the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC), government employers must show a compelling justification for drug testing.

The consequences of a failed drug test can be life-altering for an applicant or employee. In some cases, employers will provide rehabilitation services, but more commonly, employers will refuse to hire a potential applicant or terminate an employee. Additionally, employers are allowed to release the test results to the TWC, and this can affect a person’s unemployment compensation. Employees who believe their employer impermissibly drug tested them may have some legal protections.

Most employers should provide their employees with a written drug testing policy that outlines what results will be a violation, which employees require drug testing, and what measures will be taken after a violation. Unfortunately, Texas employers can fire employees that refuse to sign an acknowledgment of the drug testing policy. However, employers need to provide the employee with a warning that there is a risk of termination if they fail to sign the policy. Additionally, the policy needs to be enforced in a non-discriminatory manner.

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a labor law that provides eligible employees with the right to take job-protected, unpaid leave for up to 12 weeks per year for family and medical reasons. Under the FMLA, eligible employees who take this leave will retain their group health benefits. Generally, employees are eligible if they worked for their employer for 12 months, for at least a minimum of 1,250 hours, and at a location where the organization employs at least 50 employees within 75 miles. Employees can take leave in specific situations, including during and after the birth of their newborn, after a child is placed with the employee for foster care or adoption, to care for a spouse, child, or parent with a severe medical condition, or when the employee cannot work because of a critical medical condition. Additionally, in 2008, the FMLA afforded additional benefits to military families through the Military Family Leave provision.

The “Exigency Leave” portion of the FMLA provides additional protections to qualifying employees whose spouses, parents, or children are deployed or going to be deployed to a foreign country. Similar to typical FMLA requirements, individuals who want to use this leave must work for a qualified employer and meet eligibility requirements. This leave allows the individual to take a total of 12 workweeks of leave to address issues that often arise when a family member is facing deployment. For example, the leave is designed to allow family members to arrange for daycare or attend official military ceremonies.

Additionally, Military Caregiver Leave allows qualifying spouses, parents, children, and next-of-kin to care for their military family members if they are suffering from qualifying injuries or illnesses. An employee can take this leave as long as they meet eligibility requirements and work for a qualified employer. This leave provides caregivers with the right to take a total of 26 workweeks of unpaid leave during a single 12-month period.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employers cannot discriminate against prospective or current employees based on their disability. The ADA provides that qualified individuals with disabilities should receive a reasonable accommodation to perform their job duties, unless it imposes an undue burden on the employer. These accommodations offer disabled individuals the ability to engage in equal employment opportunities.

Reasonable accommodations can be provided at all stages of employment and in various ways. For example, employers may be asked to change the application process or training process to accommodate a prospective or new employee. Moreover, an employer could adjust equipment or software to assist a disabled employee. Although employers are not required to create new positions, they may be required to reassign employees if a qualified position becomes available.

In some instances, an employee may request to work at home to accommodate their disability. Although not every job can be performed at home, teleworking can be a reasonable accommodation depending on the circumstances. The ADA does not mandate employers offer teleworking as a reasonable accommodation; however, if an employer does retain a teleworking policy, they must allow disabled employees that same opportunity. The result may be an employer modifying their current teleworking policy to accommodate a person with disabilities.

In addition to the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (the Act) protects employees who work for the federal government, a program conducted by a federal agency, a program receiving federal financial assistance, or a federal contractor. This Act protects the rights of people with disabilities from discrimination regardless of the number of employees. Legislators designed the Rehabilitation Act in response to the large number of individuals with disabilities who were either unemployed or underemployed based on employers’ reluctance to hire them. Additionally, the Rehabilitation Act requires employers to hire and retain individuals with disabilities.

Section 504 of the Act prohibits employers who receive federal funds from discriminating against a qualified individual with a disability. The Act provides that employers cannot deny benefits, exclude, or discriminate against prospective, current, or former employees based on their disability. Additionally, the Act requires Texas agencies or contract service providers who receive federal funds to recruit actively, employ, and advance qualified disabled individuals.

If a Texas employee believes their employer is discriminating against them, but the ADA does not cover them, they may still be able to pursue a claim based on the Rehabilitation Act. However, the Rehabilitation Act and ADA use the same standards when determining if an employer is engaging in employment discrimination.

Under both state and federal law, Texas employees are protected from discrimination based on pregnancy and pregnancy-related illnesses; however, that was not always the case.

Originally, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, and national origin was not interpreted by the courts to include protection for pregnancy and related medical conditions. During this time, employers were able to make decisions based on the fact an employee was pregnant. It was not until over a decade later, with the passage of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 (PDA) that pregnancy was covered. Since the passage of the PDA, discrimination based “on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions” has been prohibited because it is considered to be discrimination based on a person’s sex.

Under the PDA, women who are pregnant or are suffering from pregnancy-related illnesses cannot be discriminated against. Common pregnancy-related illnesses include:

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