Is it discrimination if my husband had a head injury last year but was left with some disabilities from it and he was subsequently fired from his job?

He returned to work. They were aware of his disability and he hasn’t had any problems. A few weeks ago he passed out at work and hit his head at the hospital they said it was “confusion” (which is linked to his head injury and part of his disability). He was perfectly fine but his employer then fired him.This just sounds like discrimination to me. Was what they did legal?

Asked on December 15, 2015 under Employment Labor Law, Virginia

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

It's not as simple as whether the termination is because he is disabled or not. An employer's obligation to make "reasonable accommodations" to a disabled employee, which means changes in how the job is done, or the provision of some assistive devices, which are not too expensive or too disruptive for the employer. However, an employer is not required to run an enhanced risk of liability, such as from an employee who collapses at work (and so could then potentially try to claim vs. the employer, or who, while collapsing, could damage equipment or injure another), nor are they required to retain an employee who, even with "reasonable accommodations," is not productive or can't do his job. From what you write, the employer may have been worried about liability from your husband collapsing. It may be that their concern was overblown and unjustified, and therefore that this is disability-related discrimination...but it's not  automatically the case that it was, because employers definitely may let go employees who have conditions making them prone to collapse in many circumstances. It would be worthwhile for you and your husband to discuss the matter in detail with an employment law attorney; you just need to be prepared that this termination may be justified.


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