Nancy Norman has filed suit against her former employer, Ebbay Halliday Realtors, Inc., in Dallas district court for discrimination based on her disability. She filed suit under the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act., the Texas equivalent of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. See Texas Lawyer report. Ms. Norman was fired after ten years of employment and 37 days after disclosing her diagnosis, inverse psoriasis, a skin disorder. Ms. Norman’s doctor told her to wear shorts to work and change once she arrived at work. Her disorder involves a painful red rash made worse by friction and perspiration. Her doctor warned her against overheating. The employee told her office administrator about the diagnosis and what the doctor prescribed.
She arrived to work wearing shorts. The office manager, Don Davis immediately told her she cannot wear shorts to work. During the following week, Mr. Davis allegedly exhibited hostility toward Ms. Norman. He then issued her a disciplinary write-up for dressing improperly for work and general incompetence. When Ms. Norman tried again to explain to him her need to wear shorts to work, he cut her off and said he did not care about her medical issues. Ms. Norman says she had received letters of commendation in the past.
Ms. Norman then failed to attend a shower for a co-worker during lunch. Mr. Davis complained about that omission and sent her home. He called her at home later that day and fired her.
It sounds like a good case for the employee. The employer will surely defend on the basis that Ms. Norman was not a productive employee and had other issues. But, if Ms. Norman truly has a write-up for dressing improperly at work after she had been diagnosed, the employer’s actions will appear retaliatory. Mr. Davis will undoubtedly deny his statements. But, the verifiable evidence will be strong enough that many jury members may accept the plaintiff’s version of events. This is a case which the employer should settle.
And, requiring attendance at a function during non-working hours? A possible violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act? The employer has some problems in this lawsuit.