Fiddler & Associates, P.C.
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1004 Congress, 3rd Floor - Houston, TX

Disabled Protected Again

When the Americans With Disabilities Act ("ADA") was passed in 1990, the business community trembled.  The ADA's definition of disability was broad and seemingly covered millions of Americans.  In fact, the text of the ADA finds that 43 million Americans are disabled.  The ADA prohibited discrimination against those with disabilities and imposed upon covered employers the obligation to provide reasonable accomodations so disabled employees could perform the essential functions of their job.  Employers had reason to take notice of the ADA. However, after the ADA became law, our courts began interpreting the ADA so narrowly it left the ADA largely ineffective.  Experienced employment lawyers stopped taking employee's cases because, frankly, the courts made them practically impossible to win, particularly in the federal Fifth Circuit (the federal circuit including the states of Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi).  A stastical analysis on ADA cases in the federal Southern District of Texas a few years ago proved what we practictioners already knew, that given the Fifth Circuit's (and Supreme Court's) interpretations of the ADA's definition of "disability," it had become nearly impossible to establish someone was disabled under the ADA.  And, if your client was not disabled he/she did not have any protections under the Act.  The running joke among practictioners became, "Yeah, 43 million Americans are disabled, but apparently none of them live in the Fifth Circuit." All that changed on January 1, 2009, when amendments to the ADA became effective, overturning court decisions that had emasculated the ADA and restoring protections to disabled Americans.  Texas followed with amendments to the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act that became effective September 1, 2009.  Disabled Americans are now protected again in the workplace again, and because of the amendments to federal and state law, employment attorneys are now in a position to help disabled employees in their struggle for equal protection in the workplace.  GSF

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