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Disabled employee may have been discriminated against when fired

On March 12, a court in southern Texas ruled that a man employed by a major tax accounting firm may have been discriminated against when he was fired in 2011. The original lawsuit alleged that, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the company was motivated to terminate the man's employment because a car accident had left him disabled.

The man, who was hired by the company in March 2008, was injured in a car crash in 2010 while on his way to a work-related meeting. His injuries required ongoing treatment, such as metal screws being inserted into his spine, and the man requested what was reported as intermittent medical leave. After being fired for what the company deemed declining performance, the man filed a complaint about discrimination and, in late 2012, was given permission by the Texas Workforce Commission Civil Rights Division to take legal action against his former employer.

The judge who made the March 12 ruling stated that the man included several discriminatory comments and emails made by two supervisors about his disability as evidence in his lawsuit; according to the judge, these comments show that the man's disability may have contributed to the company's decision to terminate his employment. However, difficulty in assessing the case in court stemmed from the fact that the employee did not attribute his being fired to a single incident of medical leave protected under the Family and Medical Leave Act. Had the man suggested his being fired was a retaliation of a single leave of absence, he have been able to support the claim, said the judge.

According to the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act, disabled individuals may be eligible to file legal claims against their former employers if they feel that their disability was a motivating factor in their wrongful termination of employment. An individual interested in pursuing such a course of action should be able to present evidence of their workplace discrimination to ensure their claim is valid.

Source: Bloomberg Law, "Rif’d Tax Manager Shows Possible Bias, but Lacks Retaliation Specifics, Court Says", Anna Kwidzinski, March 17, 2014

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