Individuals with disabilities in Texas and around the country face enormous challenges. Federal law prohibits workplace discrimination based on disability and requires employers to take reasonable steps to accommodate workers with disabilities, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is the federal agency tasked with holding employers responsible when these laws are violated. A recent case dealing with these issues involved the Ohio-based retailer Macy's.
Many Houston workers with disabilities face disadvantageous conditions on the job. Over 54 million people across the United States have a disability, but people with serious disabilities who work full time earn $1,000 less each month on average than workers without disabilities. Another 13.3 million people of working age are unemployed or have experienced difficulty securing employment due to their disabilities; they have a 70 percent unemployment rate.
For employees in Texas and across the country, the right to communication with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is protected under federal law. One of the EEOC's enforcement priorities is preserving access to the system for employees facing discrimination on the job. There are a number of actions that employers can take that can chill employees' freedom to report discrimination to the EEOC, and those actions are unlawful.
It is illegal for most Houston employers to discriminate against employees or applicants on the basis of their disabilities. When workers are disabled or become disabled, their employers must offer reasonable accommodations to them that allow them to do their jobs unless it would be unreasonably cost prohibitive. In November 2017, American Airlines and Envoy Air settled a lawsuit that was filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of hundreds of disabled workers for disability discrimination. The settlement consisted of nearly $10 million in stock.
According to the Center for Talent Innovation, almost one-third of college educated full-time workers in white collar jobs are disabled. However, employers in Texas may not be able to tell that people are disabled just by looking at them. These are referred to as invisible disabilities, and 62 percent of disabled workers have them. The CTI study found that one-third of respondents faced what they called a negative bias from employers.
The Family and Medical Leave Act enables eligible workers in Texas and around the country to take time off to care for themselves or family members under certain circumstances. The law requires employers to protect their jobs for 12 weeks. If an individual's medical circumstances become disabling, then the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission maintains that the legal protections of the Americans with Disabilities Act would prevent employers from terminating the jobs of people with ongoing medical problems.
Houston employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified applicants and employees under the Americans with Disabilities Act. This means that companies must make job adjustments that will allow individuals with a disability to perform necessary work functions. However, some employers violate the ADA by having an inflexible leave policy.
The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits employers in Texas and around the country from discriminating against workers because of physical or mental impairments that limit one or more of their major life functions. However, the 1990 law specifically excludes certain conditions. Those that are related to illegal or harmful activities like drug use, gambling and arson are not covered by the law, and neither are conditions that deal with sexual orientation and identity.
Some Texas workers who have had cancer might face discrimination in the workplace despite the fact that 2009 amendments to the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act protects them. According to the 2009 amendments, people who have a disability that substantially limits their life in some way while still being well-managed or in remission are protected from discrimination. However, a study published in the "Journal of Oncology Practice" found that people in this category were still suffering from workplace discrimination.
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.