Employment Discrimination

Plaintiffs in employment discrimination cases often allege a form of personal injury as a result of the defendant's conduct; the personal injury is usually physical symptoms caused by great emotional distress. This article discusses a specific type of employment discrimination claim: disability discrimination.

If you believe your employer has discriminated against you in any way because of a disability, you should consult with an employment attorney. He or she will advise you as to what kind of damages are available in your jurisdiction if you successfully prove the employer's liability for the discrimination. As part of those damages, you might recover for physical symptoms arising from this discrimination.

To briefly summarize a disability discrimination claim, it is helpful to look at a recent case in this area of law:

Rodriguez v. Conagra, U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals

Mr. Rodriguez contended that Conagra unlawfully discriminated against him because it rescinded a job offer after Mr. Rodriguez's physical examination in Conagra's hiring process. The examining doctor reported to Conagra that Mr. Rodriguez's diabetes was uncontrolled, a finding which plaintiff disputed as unfounded. The plaintiff asked the court to find that Conagra had discriminated against him unfairly because of his diabetes.

The court discussed the application of the ADA ("Americans with Disabilities Act") to this type of lawsuit. The ADA makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against a qualified individual with a disability and because of that disability in job application procedures, hiring, advancement, training, compensation, termination, or other terms, conditions, or privileges of employment. A "disability" is a mental or physical impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activity, a record of this impairment, or even the employer's perception that the plaintiff has this impairment. The plaintiff must therefore prove the disability, that he or she was qualified for the position, and that he was not hired because of the disability. Even if the plaintiff proves these elements, the employer can avoid liability by proving that the plaintiff could not have worked in the position without endangering the health of safety of others.

The court found that the evidence that Conagra would not hire Mr. Rodriguez because of his diabetes proved that the employer regarded the plaintiff as disabled (the court noted that whether plaintiff's diabetes was actually controlled was irrelevant to the ADA analysis.) The employer conceded that it discriminated against plaintiff because of his diabetes. The evidence demonstrated that Mr. Rodriguez was otherwise qualified to perform the work, because the court found no evidence of substantial limitations which would have affected Mr. Rodriguez's ability to work or the health and safety of others. Thus, Mr. Rodriguez had proven Conagra's unlawful discrimination, and the case was remanded to the trial court for a determination of his damages.