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Discrimination based on association with disabled family members

Most disabled Texas employees understand that they have rights against workplace discrimination based on their conditions under the Americans with Disabilities Act and other federal laws. They may not understand that the ADA also prohibits employers from discriminating against non-disabled employees because of their relationships with family members who are disabled.

A case in New Mexico illustrates this issue, which is called associational disability discrimination. In the case, a female temporary worker who had a 3-year-old disabled daughter was not offered a permanent position and was instead let go. She filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission based on a type of associational disability discrimination called distraction discrimination. Her former employer settled the case for $165,000.

Distraction discrimination occurs when an employer discriminates against an employee that the employer believes is not focusedon the job because of caring for a disabled child or family member. Another type of associational disability discrimination is expense discrimination, which occurs when an employer discriminates against a worker because the cost of insuring the disabled family member is high. A third type, called disability by association, involves discrimination against a worker whose family member has a condition that the employer fears will be contracted by the worker and other fellow employees.

Disability discrimination is against the law, but some employers still engage in it. It can be just as pernicious and damaging as other forms of discrimination. People who feel that they have been treated unfairly in this regard may want to meet with an employment law attorney in order to see what remedies may be available to them.

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