Our conference Q&A session was a big hit, but not all of the questions could be answered. Let’s take a look at a few. . .
Q: Give us more information on the new T-TESS Appraisal System.
A: According to the Texas Education Agency (TEA), the Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System (T-TESS) is aimed at providing continuous, timely, and formative feedback to educators so they can improve their practice. There are more than 60 Texas school districts participating in the pilot program. Now there is a new principal evaluation system as well, called the Texas Principal Evaluation System (T-PESS). According to TEA, the T-PESS provides “aspirational standards that inform all phases of principal development.” The latest T-TESS and T-PESS overviews, standards, rubrics, FAQ’s, and Resource Manuals can all be found on TEA’s website.
Q: What do you do with an ineffective employee who is protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act?
A: The appropriateness of employment-related decisions for employees covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) will be dependent on all of the specific facts involved. A person qualifies for protections of the ADA if they are an individual with a disability who, with or without reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential functions of the job. An employer is required to make reasonable accommodations for the employee which may include “making existing facilities readily accessible and usable by the individual, job restructuring, part-time or modified work schedules, reassignment to a vacant position, acquisition or modification of equipment or devices, appropriate adjustment or modifications of examinations, training materials or policies, the provision of qualified readers or interpreters, and other similar accommodations for individuals with disabilities.” 42 U.S.C. § 12111(9). A failure to accommodate an individual protected under the ADA could lead to legal action against the District. However, disabled employees can still be required to perform the essential functions of their job, with or without accommodation, and can still be held accountable for violations of work-performance rules and standards, so long as the employee is fully accommodated with respect to their disability.
On the other hand, if an employer has accommodated an employee and then enforces a work rule that goes against that accommodation, liability may attach. A recent court case illustrates this point. In Seidel v. New Caney Indep. Sch. Dist., 2015 WL 6549895 (S.D. Tex. 2015), a court held that a teacher could proceed on his ADA “failure-to-accommodate” claim against the district. The teacher alleged that he had been required to attend a large student gathering similar to a pep rally, when the District was aware of his diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder stemming from his service in the military. The man alleged that he had been accommodated previously by not being required to attend pep rallies. Following the incident, he allegedly had a recurrence of flashbacks and other symptoms related to PTSD and was unable to return to work. The court held that he had stated a valid ADA claim and denied the District’s motion to dismiss. According to the court, withdrawing an accommodation may give rise to liability under the ADA, unless the employer can show that it was reasonable to do so. These are highly fact-specific inquiries. For more on an employer’s legal obligations to employees covered by the ADA, resources can be found on the Department of Labor website, as well as the EEOC’s website, which offer overviews and resources on employee’s rights and employer’s responsibilities under the ADA.