Teacher invokes disability in appeal after district terminates… | TCTA
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Teacher invokes disability in appeal after district terminates his contract

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A teacher's contract was terminated by his school district. The teacher filed an appeal to the commissioner of education, arguing that the termination was unlawful in part because it violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The commissioner noted that the teacher failed to report to work, which normally would constitute good cause to terminate the contract. However, the teacher argued that he had a disability and should have been granted an accommodation to work from home.

A school district cannot terminate a teacher's contract in violation of the ADA. The ADA requires that a school district grant an accommodation to a teacher who is:

  1. a qualified individual with a disability;
  2. the disability and its consequential limitations were known by the district; and
  3. the employer failed to make reasonable accommodations for such known limitations.

In this case, however, the teacher failed to show that he had a disability. The teacher asserted that he did not report in person for work for several reasons: the campus was unsafe; for part of the time he had COVID-like symptoms; he had no computer access on campus; and the district forced him to take leave.

Under the facts as presented, the commissioner concluded that the teacher's failure to report to work was not reasonable and that the teacher was able to perform the essential functions of his job. A teacher's subjective belief that he has a disability that prevents him from doing his job is not enough to establish entitlement to accommodations under the ADA. He must be able to prove that he has a disability, the extent of that disability and that working from home is the only reasonable accommodation available that would allow him to do his job.

The commissioner denied the teacher's appeal and upheld the termination.