What qualifies as a Disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Texas Labor Code?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Chapter 21 of the Texas Labor Code protect applicants and employees from being discriminated against at any stage in employment, including job applications, hiring, firing, compensation, leave of absence, and any other terms and conditions of employment because of their disability. These laws apply to Texas employers with at least 15 employees. To qualify under the ADA, an individual must either (1) have a physical or mental disability that substantially limits one or more major life activities; (2) have a record of having a disability; or (3) be regarded as having a disability. A “substantial” impairment under the ADA is one where the medical condition or disability at issue significantly limits a major life activity, such as walking, speaking, hearing, or seeing. Employees with a disability must still be able to perform the essential functions of their job position, with or without special accommodation.

What must an Employer do once they know of an employee’s disability?

An employee with a disability should first request an accommodation from their employer to enable them to perform the necessary functions of their job position. Under the ADA, employers who know of an applicant’s or employee’s qualified disability must provide reasonable accommodations to them. Such accommodations may take the form of physical changes to an employee’s workspace, changes in an employee’s schedule, additional accessible training, and job restructuring or reassignment to a vacant position which the employee is qualified for. However, employers do not need to provide accommodations that would impose an undue hardship onto the operation of their business, meaning that they would incur a significant difficulty or expense in implementing the proposed accommodation. Once an employer is notified by an employee about their disability, they must engage in an interactive process to determine what reasonable accommodation(s) can be provided.

What is covered under the ADA?

It is illegal for an employer to simply ask an applicant or employee if they have a disability, but they can ask about a person’s ability to perform specific functions of the given job position. Job offers based on the results of a medical examination are also illegal for employers to impose, unless they are job-related, administered on a uniform basis, and consistent with the employer’s legitimate business needs. Disability discrimination can also include harassment based on a person’s disability or their history of having a disability, such as through offensive remarks or mockery. Countless physical and mental impairments both common and rare are covered under the ADA, including specific learning disabilities and drug addiction history.

Do I have to show medical documentation to my employer?

Employers generally do have the right to require an employee to provide medical documentation from a doctor that shows their need for a reasonable accommodation, but they are prohibited from making employees pay for their own accommodations or reducing their pay in order for them to provide an accommodation. The ADA also protects employees from retaliation in trying to assert these rights and prohibits discrimination based on an employee’s relationship with a person who has a disability (associational disability discrimination). The federal government agency that enforces the employment provisions of the ADA is the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). With Congress’s amendment to the ADA in 2008, it is now easier than it was previously for an individual to demonstrate that they have a medical condition that qualifies as covered under the law, but it is still advisable to consult with an experienced employment law attorney to navigate this complicated area of law. 

Speak with an experienced Employment Lawyer today if you have any questions regarding your rights as an employee with a disability.

In the United States, a variety of federal laws protect workers’ rights. In the state of Texas, we have additional laws that protect workers under the Texas Labor Code. When employers do not obey these laws and regulations, employees have the right to take action without employer retaliation.

Ross • Scalise Employment Lawyers is committed to helping workers by upholding the law and holding companies accountable for their actions. If your employer has discriminated against you, harassed you, retaliated against you for complaining about illegal actions, stolen your wages, or otherwise wronged you, take a stand. You can start by talking to a seasoned Texas employment lawyer at our firm today. Contact Us online or Call Us at 512.643.6388 to request an appointment.