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Disability Discrimination at Work

This article contains information excerpted from the U.S. EEOC and the Texas Workforce Commission.

Disability Discrimination

Disability discrimination occurs when an employer or other entity covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act, as amended, or the Rehabilitation Act, as amended, treats a qualified individual with a disability who is an employee or applicant unfavorably because she has a disability. Learn more about the Act at ADA at 25.

Disability discrimination also occurs when a covered employer or other entity treats an applicant or employee less favorably because she has a history of a disability (such as cancer that is controlled or in remission) or because she is believed to have a physical or mental impairment that is not transitory (lasting or expected to last six months or less) and minor (even if she does not have such an impairment).

The law requires an employer to provide reasonable accommodation to an employee or job applicant with a disability, unless doing so would cause significant difficulty or expense for the employer ("undue hardship").

The law also protects people from discrimination based on their relationship with a person with a disability (even if they do not themselves have a disability). For example, it is illegal to discriminate against an employee because her husband has a disability.

Note: Federal employees and applicants are covered by the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, instead of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The protections are mostly the same.

Read more about Disability Discrimination at eeoc.gov.

Disability Discrimination & Work Situations

The law forbids discrimination when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits, and any other term or condition of employment.

Read more about Disability Discrimination at eeoc.gov.

Disability Discrimination & Harassment

It is illegal to harass an applicant or employee because he has a disability, had a disability in the past, or is believed to have a physical or mental impairment that is not transitory (lasting or expected to last six months or less) and minor (even if he does not have such an impairment).

Harassment can include, for example, offensive remarks about a person's disability. Although the law doesn't prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that aren't very serious, harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as the victim being fired or demoted).

The harasser can be the victim's supervisor, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or someone who is not an employee of the employer, such as a client or customer.

Read more about Disability Discrimination at twc.state.tx.us.

Laws Protecting Disability Rights

This handout from disabilityrightstx.org gives a summary of the federal and Texas laws against disability discrimination in the workplace. 

If you believe you may have been discriminated against in employment due to a disability and meet the requirements listed below, you may submit a discrimination complaint through the TWC Civil Rights Division. To learn more about the complaint process, see How to Submit an Employment Discrimination Complaint.

Texas Labor Code Chapter 21 (Chapter 21) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibit employers from discriminating against applicants or employees with disabilities in job application, procedures, conditions and privileges of employment. Chapter 21 applies to private employers with 15 or more employees, and to all state and local governmental entities no matter how many employees they have.

A qualified individual under Chapter 21 and ADA meets one or more of these requirements:

  • Has a physical or mental disability that substantially limits one or more major life activities
  • Has a record of having a disability
  • Is regarded as having a disability

In the sections below we provide information about common concerns or complaints.

Find out more information at twc.state.tx.us.