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EEOC Files COVID-related Discrimination Claims Against Texas Companies

At any time, companies and Texas and elsewhere in the United States must take great care to avoid violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Determining what type of accommodation must be made based on the given circumstances can be a complex decision. When the COVID-19 pandemic struck in early 2020, workers with disabilities and employers were faced with a new, unexpected set of challenges.

Two Texas actions brought by the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) highlight the different ways in which the coronavirus has affected the rights of disabled workers:

  • Asthmatic employee told not to wear mask — In EEOC v. Drug Mart d/b/a Fabens Pharmacy, an employee suffering from asthma wanted to wear a mask while working in the defendant pharmacy. Rather than agreeing to their worker’s request, the employer sent him home twice and insulted him for seeking to protect himself from catching COVID-19. Ultimately, this led the worker to quit.
  • Disabled employees prevented from coming to work — Filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Fort Worth Division, EEOC v. 151 Coffee, LLC arises from a situation where a coffee shop worried that disabled baristas would contract COVID-19. This concern led the shop to prevent these employees from returning to their job until a vaccine became available. This differed from the manner in which other employees were treated, and contradicted the wishes of the disabled employees, who wanted to get back to work. Even if 151 Coffee made their decision based on genuine concern for the baristas, employers cannot deny employment opportunities to disabled people absent a direct threat to health or safety.

The COVID-19 pandemic is just one circumstance that has led to litigation of over the treatment of workers’ with disabilities. Even after the coronavirus threat is gone, there will still be situations where employers attempt to restrict disabled individuals from handling certain jobs and where businesses refuse to accommodate the needs of their workers. Regardless of whether you are an employee or employer, a qualified Texas employment law attorney can provide the insight you need regarding the ADA and other pertinent legal standards. From there, you can make an informed decision on how to proceed.

The Law Offices of David C. Holmes in Houston works on behalf in Texas clients in disability discrimination cases and various other types of employment law matters. To set up a free initial consultation to discuss your case, please call 713-586-8862 or contact us online.