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EEOC Alleges Termination of Disabled Employee Violates the Law

Firing someone because of their disability is illegal. Businesses sometimes come up with rationales for dismissing a worker who is limited in some way, but if that employee is capable of performing their workplace duties, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires the employer to make reasonable accommodations to keep the employee on the job. Though this law has been in place for more than 30 years, discrimination against disabled individuals persists, and companies of all sizes still face legal sanctions for violating ADA provisions.

During fall 2021, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) sued a Defense Department contractor alleging that it terminated employee Dave Hall after he submitted a report from his doctor stating that he was cancer-free and fit to return to his job in Afghanistan. The case against Fluor Federal Global Projects, Inc. raises key issues that parties should consider when the termination of disabled employee is considered or executed, such as:

  • Medical evaluation — When he sought to return to work, Mr. Hall offered Fluor the opportunity to conduct an independent medical evaluation to assess his health and fitness. The company did not do so and disqualified him from the project without further review. It’s important to remember that medical evaluations for ADA purposes are different than some other types of examination. Questions must be related to how the alleged disability affects their ability to handle their job.  
  • Reasonable accommodations — An employer might claim that the cost of making accommodations is too high and therefore not “reasonable” under the law. According to the Department of Labor however, a majority of adjustments that need to be made do not require any expense at all. Of the rest, most typically cost less than $500. In the Fluor case, it is not certain what accommodation would need to be made for a cancer survivor.
  • Threat to workplace health or safety — In cases stemming from contagious diseases and severe mental disabilities, there could be a question about whether the condition poses a threat to others in the workplace. An employer who tries to cite this in order to dismiss an employee must show a direct threat to safety. The desire to avoid a “distraction” caused by someone’s affliction will not suffice.

Employers that fail to comply with ADA standards could be subject to a wrongful termination lawsuit despite the “at will employment” laws used in Texas and other states. If you believe you have been fired illegally due to your disability, consulting a qualified employment lawyer will help you understand your legal options even if some other reason was provided for your dismissal.

At the Law Offices of David C. Holmes in Houston, we offer comprehensive legal representation to Texans in wrongful termination actions stemming from alleged bias against disabled workers and other types of discrimination. Please call 713-586-8862 or contact us online to make an appointment for a free initial consultation at our office.