For many families, the loss of a close relative also means the loss of livelihood. As such, Texas families may want to educate themselves about the protections they are entitled to in the event of a loved one’s death. Furthermore, employers should be cautious about behavior that could provoke legal action from the estate of a deceased employee.
In January 2017, the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a verdict that a claim of discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act may still be accepted after the death of an employee. The question was raised by a dispute between the estate of a deceased construction manager and his former employer. The employee was terminated after he requested a three-week leave of absence to undergo cancer treatment. He sought help from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging that he was a victim of disability discrimination.
The EEOC agreed, but the decision was not reached until a year after the employee’s death. His estate sued, and the company asked for the case to be dismissed, claiming that Arkansas law did not allow claims of disability discrimination to be filed posthumously. While the federal district court initially sided with the company, the estate successfully pursued an appeal. The appeals court referred to the fact that the Americans with Disabilities Act extends protection to those whose disabilities pose an imminent risk of death. The court concluded that this protection would be significantly curtailed if it could be overruled by state law.
If a bereaved party suspects their loved one was wrongfully fired because of a disability, they may still be able to pursue litigation against their loved one’s employer. In particular, their lawyer could argue that state law is secondary to federal law regarding the issue.