ADA Law: Discriminating Over An Employee's Association

by on January 21, 2009 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: HR Info Center

ADA lawsuits don’t always originate from a person’s own ADA disability.

So far, the situations we’ve discussed involve employees who have disabilities or regarded as having a disability. But before we finish, let us remind you of a little-known section of the Americans with Disabilities Act that can trip you up – and has nothing to do with employee disabilities.
We’re talking about the “association provision” of ADA law. This section of the law bars discrimination against an employee on the basis of his or her association with a disabled person. This connection can be a relationship by blood or marriage, but it doesn’t have to be. The association provision might also protect, say, a worker who had a friend who was HIV-positive.

Let’s see how one such case played out in real life.

Bill Campbell’s son Jason was autistic. Bill’s employer denied health insurance coverage for his son’s condition, and Bill filed an ADA lawsuit. Bill claimed the employer’s refusal to bring the boy’s autism under his health insurance was disability discrimination against him, Bill, because of his association with his disabled son.

The court refused to dismiss Bill’s suit, saying that the association provision allowed him to bring it.
The court also said that the employer hadn’t proven its insurance decision was based on actuarial principles, rather than being simple discrimination against one specific kind of disability. The company faced either more expensive time in court, or a settlement with Bill.

How the supervisor slipped up
Whoever made the decision to deny health coverage was not aware of the association provision of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Anytime you find yourself thinking that a worker’s disabled relative is starting to become an expensive pain, remember that the wrong move could create an even more expensive pain.

(Morgenthal v. AT&T)

Leave a Reply


Request a Free Demo

We'd love to show you how this industry-leading training system can help you develop your team. Please fill out this quick form or give us a call at 877-792-2172 to schedule your one-on-one demo with a Rapid Learning Specialist.