Disability Discrimination

Austin Disability Discrimination Attorney

Laws Protecting Employees From Disability Discrimination

Both the Texas Labor Code and the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) prohibit disability discrimination in employment. These laws make it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against an employee with a disability (or an employee who the employer perceives to be disabled) when making decisions related to hiring, firing, promoting, training, compensating, or other terms of employment. In addition, these laws prohibit an employer from retaliating against an employee for opposing an unlawful act of disability discrimination.

Under federal law (which Texas law closely mirrors), “disability” with respect to an employee means:

  1. a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual;
  2. a record of such impairment; or
  3. being regarded as having such an impairment.

The meaning of “disability” within the law has been the subject of great dispute in the courts and was given a very narrow meaning by the courts. However, in 2008, amendments were made to the ADA which expand the definition of disability and provide for greater protection for disabled employees. In 2009, the Texas Legislature also passed new amendments to state law seeking to implement the federal amendments to the ADA into Texas law. As a result, more employees that are subjected to disability discrimination will be able to protect their rights in the court system.

The ADA protects “qualified” employees, which is defined as “an individual who, with or without reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential functions of the employment position that such individual holds or desires.” However, an employer may not be required to hire or employ a disabled and qualified employee in limited circumstances, such as where an employer can show that an accommodation would cause undue hardship.

It should be noted that determining who is protected by the ADA and what protections an employee may receive under the ADA can be a complicated exercise and is highly fact specific. To determine if you are protected under the ADA, you should contact an attorney who has worked with the ADA and disability discrimination.

Employee Remedies For Disability Discrimination

In a lawsuit for disability discrimination, an employee may be able to recover:

  • Lost wages and benefits to the time of trial
  • Lost wages and benefits into the future
  • Compensatory damages
  • Punitive damages
  • Attorney’s Fees

Prior to filing a lawsuit, an employee must file a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and/or Texas Workforce Commission (TWC). These agencies enforce the laws protecting employees from age discrimination in the workplace.

What To Do If Your Employer Discriminates Against You Because of Your Disability

Contact a lawyer immediately, and preferably a lawyer who routinely represents employees in employment litigation. If you are not able to contact an attorney, you should contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the Texas Workforce Commission, Civil Rights Division. To preserve your rights under the law for this type of discrimination, you must act quickly and typically must follow certain procedural steps, such as filing a charge of discrimination with either the EEOC or TWC. Lastly, take thorough notes regarding everything discriminatory that is being said or done to you and keep all records related to your employment. These notes and records may prove invaluable in a later lawsuit.

Additional Resources for Learning About Disability Discrimination

EEOC Fact Sheet on Disability Discrimination

Workplace Fairness Fact Sheet on Disability Discrimination

Questions and Answers Regarding Disability Discrimination in Employment

Advocacy, Inc.–A non-profit organization dedicated to protecting and advancing the rights of Texans with disabilities

If you feel that you have been subjected to disability discrimination and wish to speak to an Austin disability discrimination lawyer at the Cook Law Firm, please submit a case review form.