Texas disability discrimination lawyers help clients in disability discrimination claims in Texas employment. Disability discrimination occurs when an employer treats an applicant or employee with a qualified disability, or regarded as having a qualified disability, less favorably than other employees or fails to provide a reasonable accommodation for a qualified disability. Disability discrimination is unlawful under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Rehabilitation Act and the Texas Labor Code.
Texas disability discrimination claims are challenging for employees for a number of reasons. These claims can be challenging like most employment discrimination claims but carry the added challenge of working within the technical legal definition of a disability and how employers must accommodate them. A disability discrimination attorney can be critical to maneuvering these landmines and giving you the best opportunity to obtain a satisfactory result for disability discrimination under federal and Texas employment laws.
Who is disabled under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
To be protected by the ADA, a person must be qualified for the job he or she is performing or seeking to perform (with or without a reasonable accommodation) and prove he or she is disabled or regarded as disabled in one of three ways:
- The person has a physical or mental condition that substantially limits a major life activity;
- The person has a history of a disability;
- Or the person is regarded as having a lasting disability.
Although these terms appear obvious the legal meaning of each element is complex. Texas disability discrimination lawyers battle in disability discrimination lawsuits over their meaning and the application of facts.
How disability discrimination occurs in the Texas workplace
Disability discrimination is prohibited in the employment relationship from hiring practices through termination. Common ways disability discrimination can occur:
- Job advertisements
- Application processes and applicant screening
- Pre-employment inquires
- Job referrals
- Job assignments and promotions
- Compensation (both pay and benefits)
- Merit reviews, performance evaluation and raises
- Disciplinary practices
- Terminations, layoffs and reductions in force (RIF)
- Refusal to provide a reasonable accommodation
Disability discrimination can occur at any point in the hiring process or during employment but commonly occurs in four instances.
Disability discrimination in hiring
First, disability discrimination often occurs during the hiring process. It is the first opportunity for employers to visually identify physical disabilities. During the hiring process the employer may also require certain medical or skills testing that may expose a disability. During this process the hiring manager or employer may discriminate against applicants with disabilities.
Second, disability discrimination may occur through harassment, also known as a hostile work environment. Harassment occurs when the workplace becomes hostile through the acts of coworkers or management. Harassment can occur through words, pictures, emails, job assignments, threats and even physical contact. These claims are challenging claims because courts have interpreted the law narrowly so that the harassment must reach a high level before an employee can prevail. If you believe you suffered unlawful harassment at work then contact Texas employment lawyers right away.
Third, disability discrimination can occur through retaliation. Your employer may also retaliate against you for requesting an accommodation or bringing claims of disability discrimination to the attention of management, HR, or a government agency. This retaliation is unlawful and creates an independent claim against your employer. Your right to work free from disability discrimination includes the right to report unlawful discrimination and protect your rights.
Fourth, disability discrimination may occur when your employer refuses to provide a reasonable accommodation. Under the ADA and Texas Labor Code, if you have a qualified disability you are entitled to request a reasonable accommodation that assists you in accessing the workplace or in performing the essential functions of the job. That accommodation must be reasonable, so it may not impose an undue hardship on your employer.
Your employer does not have to provide the accommodation you request as long as it offers one that is reasonable and accomplishes the goal. It is your duty to inform your employer of your need of the accommodation. Your employer must engage in an interactive process to determine the appropriate accommodation. If your employer refuses to engage you in that process, that is good evidence that the employer refused to accommodate. If your employer takes negative action against your job because you requested an accommodation or because the employer provided it, that is retaliation prohibited under the ADA.
Remedies for disability discrimination in Texas
The law provides remedies to make a victim of disability discrimination whole. These remedies can range from requiring the employer to hire/reinstate/promote/etc. to paying for economic losses, such as lost wages while you try to find a new job. The specific remedies pursued on a disability discrimination claim depend on the negative effects you suffered and what is best for you. Determining the right course of action is something we will discuss together when you hire Texas employment lawyers to represent your disability discrimination claim.
Handling disability discrimination claims in Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas
Disability discrimination claims follow the same process as other employment discrimination claims, which is a complex process. Disability discrimination claims begin with a charge filed with the federal (EEOC) and state (TWC) discrimination agencies who will investigate your claims of discrimination. The charge must be filed within a limited period of time after the discrimination occurred to preserve your claims.
All employment discrimination claims are challenging claims for many reasons. The employer controls most of the information that might directly prove discrimination. Often, there is no direct evidence (no smoking gun) of discrimination so the case must be proven by indirect or circumstantial evidence.