EEOC Raises Awareness of ADA Protections for Associates of Disabled

October 20, 2005 ( - Those who associate with disabled American workers are likewise protected by federal anti-workplace discrimination law.

That was the recent message from the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which asserted that the protections offered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to those associating with the disabled was a “little known but significant” provision of the law.

To help raise awareness, the EEOC released an online briefing paper a bout ADA protections for those associating with disabled workers.

According to the EEOC, the “association” provision of the ADA prohibits an employer from discriminating against an applicant or employee who has a known association with an individual with a disability.  This prohibition covers hiring, firing, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment.  For example, an employer may not refuse to hire someone because of an unfounded fear that the individual will be excessively absent or unproductive because of the need to care for a child with a disability, the agency said.

The EEOC said the following actions would also be discriminatory:

  • firing or refusing to hire someone based on concerns that the individual will acquire a condition from a family member or other individual with whom he has a relationship
  • refusing to provide health insurance for an employee’s family member with a disability when the employer generally provides health insurance for employee dependents
  • harassing someone based on the individual’s association with a person with a disability
  • providing lesser benefits to someone who has a relationship or association with an individual with a disability than it provides to all other employees
  • firing, refusing to hire, or denying any benefit or privilege of employment to someone because of concern that the employer’s image will be negatively affected by an applicant’s or employee’s association with individuals with disabilities. For example, discriminating against an employee who provides volunteer services for people with HIV/AIDS or psychiatric disabilities is prohibited.