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Associational Disability Discrimination

Associational Disability Discrimination at the workplace is defined as discrimination by an employer against an employee based on the employee’s relationship with a disabled individual. Thus, the employee, himself or herself, does not have a disability. Examples of associations that an employee might have with a disabled person includes a brother who has cancer, a sister who has diabetes, or a son who is an amputee. In such cases, the employee needs to dedicate his or her time to taking care of the person with the disability, such as taking him or her to their doctor appointments or for other health-related appointments. If their employer terminates or executes any adverse action due to the employee’s association with the disabled individual, then the employee has the right to file a wrongful termination claim based on associational disability discrimination.

In order to file an associational disability discrimination claim, the employee must satisfy a list of important and necessary elements to this claim. One such noteworthy element is that the employee has to prove that he or she is still able to perform his or her essential duties at work, even though they are associated with an individual with disabilities. Another element that should be highlighted is how the employee has to prove that their employer either terminated or performed an adverse action against him or her because the employer believed that the associative person’s disability was costly, or the employer feared that their employee might be able to develop or have this genetic disability in the future, or the employer believed that the employee was“somewhat” inattentive, but not so inattentive to not be able to satisfy their employer’s work requirements. Some examples of the conditions stated above are if the employee was fired because the employer’s associative person was covered under the employee’s employer-provided health care plan if the associative person has HIV and the employer is worried that the employee might get it too and if the employee is somewhat distracted by their child’s disability because their child’s disability requires their attention. The most important element that the employee must satisfy in order to argue for wrongful termination based on associative disability discrimination is how the employee’s association with the disabled individual was a substantial motivating factor for the employer’s decision to terminate this employee. The word substantial is italicized in the previous sentence because it is necessary for the employee to prove that it was not just mere speculation that the employee was fired based on his or her association with the individual with disabilities. If the employee proves that the motivating factor was substantial, then the employer is liable for his or her wrongful termination.

It should also be noted that the employee can still file an associational disability discrimination claim, even though the termination was purely for the employer’s monetary reasons.

In sum, any associative disability discrimination is considered to be under the umbrella of wrongful termination claims. Furthermore, such wrongful terminations are a clear violation of the Fair and Housing Act, also abbreviated as FEHA. The purpose of the Fair and Housing Act is for employees to seek justice for their employer’s wrongful purposes of their termination. Thus, employees should feel protected under the Fair and Housing Act.

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