In Sickness and in Health: Recent Judicial Developments in Americans with Disabilities Act Association Discrimination Cases

Source: Patricia Quinn Robertson, Employee Responsibilities and Rights Journal, Published online: 16 April 2009
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From the abstract:
A little-known provision of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits covered employers from taking an adverse employment action against a qualified employee if a determinative factor in the adverse employment action is the disability of an associate or relative of the employee. A review of the reported court opinions indicates that plaintiff employees often encounter difficulty in these cases. Some plaintiffs are unable to prove that they are “qualified” employees at the time of the adverse employment action, and other plaintiffs find it difficult to prove that a determinative factor in the adverse employment action was the disability of the associate or relative. However, plaintiffs have achieved some success as evidenced in the 2008 U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals holdings in Dewitt v. Proctor Hospital and Trujillo v. PacifiCorp. This paper describes reported U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals opinions about ADA association discrimination, its relationship to the Family and Medical Leave Act and Employee Retirement Income Security Act, and the implications for employers, employees, and lawmakers. It also offers practical guidance to both employees and employers for asserting and managing rights and potential liability in this area.

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