Houston firm settles disability discrimination case

A Houston-based defense contracting firm has settled a disability discrimination case with one of their former employees and the EEOC. The lawsuit alleged that the firm wrongfully terminated the employee, who was considered disabled but never offered any accommodations pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In fact, the man was performing well at his job despite the lack of accommodations and had received satisfactory performance reviews prior to being fired. The problem apparently arose from the fact that while the employer regarded the man as disabled because of his morbid obesity but the company never engaged him in a discussion about accommodations and his rights, which is required under the ADA.

As such, the settlement that the Texas company reached with the EEOC requires that they increase their training for managers and human resources personnel on the issue of disability discrimination and equal employment opportunity compliance.

Some employees who live with a disability might think that because it is possible for them to do their job without accommodations that they shouldn't ask. However, disabled employees have a right to an equal playing field at work, and that means having the accommodations necessary to do the job with as much ease as a non-disabled employee. Accommodations can take many different forms, and commonly include requests like adapted office equipment, more flexible hours, or a specific medical accommodation. It is illegal for an employer to deny a request for a reasonable accommodation that doesn't impose an undue burden on the company and it is also illegal to retaliate or treat an employee who makes such a request differently from other employees.

Source: Business Management Daily, "Houston defense firm pays up in 'regarded as disabled' case," Nov. 9, 2012.

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