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Legal protections for an employee who cares for a disabled person

Workers in New York may have heard about workplace discrimination regarding age, gender, race or religion. However, there is also associational disability discrimination that is addressed by the Americans with Disabilities Act. This type of discrimination applies to a person denied employee rights because they must care for a disabled family member.

The law prohibits employers from discriminating on the grounds of expense, disability by association and distraction. Expense refers to the potential costs that would arise if an employer added an employee to a health plan with a dependent who required ongoing care. Disability by association occurs when an employer fears that the worker will develop the same disabling condition as a relative because of genetics. Distraction describes the form of discrimination in which an employer believes that the employee will focus on the sick family member instead of work duties.

While ADA discrimination cases are not common, a New Mexico court found distraction to be the form of discrimination levied on a worker at an orthopedics company. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit on behalf of the worker, who was the mother of a disabled 3-year-old daughter. The court ruled that the company pay a settlement of $165,000. After the ruling, the woman expressed her hope that parents of disabled children would stand up for their rights.

Workplace discrimination can take many forms. Hiring or promotions might be denied because of race, medical information, religion, gender, marital status, pregnancy or even requests for disability leave. A person who suspects that an employer is breaking the law could seek information from an attorney. After researching the facts of the case, the lawyer could provide an opinion about the viability of a lawsuit. A discrimination lawsuit might pursue damages such as lost wages. A reinstatement to the position might also be included in a settlement.

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