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Dickinson, Texas, schools accused of disability discrimination

It is very important here in Houston and throughout the country that disabled people are given a fair chance in the workplace. People with disabilities have the right to work in an environment free from discrimination as well as be provided with reasonable accommodations. Reasonable accommodations might include adjusted working hours, a certain type of workspace or chair, or specific break or lunch times, among other things.

This is not only the right thing for employers to do, but it is required under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. Employers who foster hostile work environments, or fail to make accommodations for or discriminate against disabled employees, can and should be held accountable. Recently a man was fired from the Dickinson Independent School District here in Texas, after reportedly enduring years of harassment, due to a learning disability.

The school district terminated the man's employment after he got into a truck accident on the job. He then filed a lawsuit under the ADA, accusing the district not only of firing him because he had a learning disability, but also for denying him reasonable accommodations and subjecting him to harassment on the job for years.

The man, who reportedly has an IQ of 72, was commonly called "Forrest Gump" at work. His employer told the court that this was not due to his learning disability, but rather because he had excellent ping-pong and cross-country abilities.

The court disagreed. And it also found that it would have been a reasonable accommodation for the school district to excuse the worker from driving tasks, because in fact this was not even a part of his job description.

The court denied the school district's request for summary judgment and the case will now go before a jury to determine whether the district in fact violated the ADA in both its workplace treatment and the termination of this employee.

Source: Business Management, "How not to treat a learning-disabled employee," Oct. 26, 2012

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