Marcos De Hoyos
Texas Employment Lawyer Marcos De Hoyos

The Omicron variant of Covid-19 has been spreading like wildfire both among the vaccinated and unvaccinated. Contracting the new strain is causing many to have to take time off of work and out of the office (one would hope). Suppose, however, that once you labor through your quarantine period, you return to the office and find that, upon your entrance, several of your close co-workers are shuffling nervously and averting their gaze from yours. You walk through this air of restlessness towards your office, only to find that your belongings have been neatly packaged in the corner of a now-vacant office. Your boss or supervisor then greets you at the door and notifies you that, effective immediately, you are terminated.

The question naturally arises: what rights do I have? Most likely, none at all. Texas is an at-will state, which entails, essentially, that you may be fired for any conceivable reason that is not related to a protected characteristic (e.g., race, sex, sexual orientation, disability, age, etc.). As broad as the Americans with Disabilities Act may be, it does not cover common, temporary illnesses such as a cold, flu, or even Covid-19. Unfortunately, within the State of Texas, your employer is allowed to terminate you for contracting a common illness.

However, some individuals who have contracted Covid-19 have experienced long-lasting side-effects. These side-effects include swelling, shortness of breath, and memory fog (to only name a few). These side-effects have been shown to persist and continue affecting individuals for years. This has caused many in the legal community to question whether the long-lasting effects of Covid-19 should be considered a disability under the ADA.

To be clear, the ADA considers an ailment a disability if this ailment impedes upon the afflicted individual’s daily life activities. For example, having a limp would affect one’s mobility; having a speech impediment would affect one’s communication; and having Crohn’s disease would affect how one functions throughout the day. The long-lasting effects of Covid-19 (i.e., swelling, shortness of breath, brain fog, etc.), could be considered ailments that affect an individual’s daily life activities to the point where they would require accommodations in the workplace.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has yet to issue guidance on the matter, but the long-lasting effects of Covid-19 are becoming an increasingly prevalent issue given the spread of the Omicron variant. It is worth, however, making a clear distinction. If your employer, at the outset of you contracting Covid-19, terminates you for that reason, then it would more than likely not be protected under the law given that the ADA does not typically protect such discrimination. However, if your employer terminates you, not because you contracted Covid-19, but because of one of the long-lasting effects of Covid-19 that you are suffering with, then it could, potentially, be protected by the ADA. The primary reason is that these long-lasting effects will be affecting your daily life activities, such as your mobility, ability to communicate, and even your ability to process information.

Covid-19 and the law have maintained a complicated relationship. This is due, largely in part, to how recently Covid-19 struck the country as well as the law’s sluggish pace to adapt to new situations and circumstances. Thus, Covid-19, or at the very least, its long-lasting effects, fall within an area of the law that is opaque and developing; it falls neatly within one of the law’s various grey areas. Hence, if the reason or suspected reason, for your termination was due to the long-lasting effects of Covid-19, then you may very well want to consult an employment lawyer and thereby potentially influence the development of a new part of the law.

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We asked Marcos D. De Hoyos, a Trial Attorney in the Houston office of Wiley Wheeler, P.C., to provide her sincere answers to a range of questions. After reading, you will be more more abreast with the understanding and competency that Mr.

We asked Marcos D. De Hoyos, a Trial Attorney in the Houston office of Wiley Wheeler, P.C., to provide her sincere answers to a range of questions. After reading, you will be more more abreast with the understanding and competency that Mr. De Hoyos brings.

  1. Why did you start practicing labor and employment law?

It’s fulfilling work. Employment law is one of the few areas of law where you can actually make a difference and an impact in the lives of people. One of the most rewarding feelings is knowing that the work I do each day has a meaningful impact in the community.

  1. Who is your favorite Supreme Court Justice?

Justice Oliver Wendall Holmes, Jr.

  1. What do you think is the most important part of a good case?

The lawyer. The client could have a stellar case, but without a good lawyer, that case isn’t going anywhere. You need a passionate, active, and knowledgeable lawyer to make the right decisions and ensure that the case, regardless of how viable it is, gets the shot it deserves.

  1. Besides Rob Wiley, P.C., what is the most interesting job that you have had?

While in college, I was a barista at a small, local coffeeshop, so while I argue your case, I can also make you a killer shot of espresso to boot.

  1. What skills do you value as an employment attorney?

The ability to adapt. As a lawyer, you’re constantly faced with situations that you didn’t expect or anticipate, and you have to learn to adapt to the situation as it unfolds. Persuasiveness and attentiveness are also a few skills I think are important to being successful in law.

  1. If you were not practicing labor and employment law what would you be?

In another life, I would most likely be an English or Philosophy professor.

  1. How do you market yourself differently than others?

I did not have the privilege of growing up in a family of lawyers. I was the only person in my family to earn a law degree, and I had to learn the law tooth and nail. I understand how complicated and daunting the law can be to someone who hasn’t studied it, so along with providing advocacy, I also like to make sure that clients understand the law, so that they aren’t left tackling their problems in the dark.

  1. What do you do when you’re not practicing law?

You can usually find me reading fiction or philosophy at the local coffee shop, going for a hike or run, or touring one of the many museums or art galleries in town.

  1. What’s your favorite legal TV show

Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law.

  1. Who do you most admire as a lawyer?

The client. Taking on big companies and corporations is daunting, especially when you haven’t studied law. It takes courage to take a stand and to fight for what you are owed. I really admire that about my clients. They know going in that it’s going to be tough, but they choose to fight anyway, and that takes guts.

Marcos D. De Hoyos is a Trial Attorney in the Houston office of Wiley Wheeler, P.C. He graduated from Texas A&M University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and Philosophy with a Minor in English. Mr. De Hoyos went on and received his law degree from Vanderbilt University.