Can Your Employer Terminate You for Performance Issues Caused by Your Disability?

A federal civil rights law known as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) ensures that people with disabilities have equal rights and opportunities to those without disabilities and are not discriminated against on the basis of their impairment. The ADA prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in all areas of life including jobs, schools, transportations, and all public and private places open to the general public.

The ADA makes it illegal to terminate an employee solely due to their disability, even though most employees in the United States work on an “at-will” basis, which means that they can be fired for virtually any reason with no explanation. This law protects anyone who meets the ADA’s definition of disability and includes individuals on disability leave. Because of this law, employers cannot terminate workers for performance issues caused by a disability.

What is the Definition of a Disability?

The ADA defines a disability as a physical or mental impairment that significantly limits someone’s ability to participate in daily life activities. Employers covered by the ADA (i.e., those with 15 or more workers) must offer reasonable accommodations for workers with disabilities as long as it would not cause the employer “undue hardship.” However, the employee needs to inform their boss of the disability so that accommodations can be provided.

These accommodations can include installing signs in Braille, modifying desks, making the workplace wheelchair-accessible, restructuring job duties or schedules, and even granting additional unpaid leave. However, if there are no reasonable accommodations that the employer can make to allow the disabled employee to perform all essential functions of the job, the employee could be legally fired.

When Can You be Terminated Due to a Disability?

Under the ADA, employers can fire workers with disabilities under three conditions:

  • The termination is unrelated to the disability.
  • The employee does not meet legitimate standards for the job with or without a reasonable accommodation.
  • The employee poses a threat to the health or safety in the workplace because of their disability.

A disabled employee who acts out in a sufficiently disruptive manner or threatens to harm themselves or others can be fired in accordance with the ADA, provided that similar behavior by non-disabled workers has resulted in the same response by the employer in the past.

Reach out to an Attorney

If a disabled person has been terminated purely because of their disability, this is considered to be wrongful termination, and the employer may be liable for damages to the disabled employee. However, it may be difficult for the employee to prove that termination occurred because of their disability and not because of an unrelated poor performance or lack of rule-following. This is why it is important to reach out to a knowledgeable attorney for assistance in wrongful termination cases.

If you believe that you or a loved one has been discriminated against because of a disability, contact an experienced attorney at McMichael & Logan today for a consultation.