The Association Provision of the ADA and the Protections it Provides to Non-Disabled Employees

Since 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has played a pivotal role in promoting equality, accessibility, and non-discrimination for individuals with disabilities. Among its key provisions, the Association Provision stands out as a cornerstone in ensuring that people are not deprived of opportunities due to their relationships with individuals with disabilities.

The Association Provision, as found in Title 1 of the ADA, prohibits discrimination against an individual based on their relationship or association with a person with a disability. This provision recognizes that individuals who have close ties with people with disabilities should not face discrimination in various aspects of their lives, including employment. Importantly, a familial relationship is not required for an individual to be protected under the Association Provision.

Under the Association Provision of the ADA, an employer may not refuse to hire a qualified applicant, deny an employee a promotion, subject an employee to harassment, or terminate an employee due to that person’s known association with an individual who has a disability.  Importantly, this line of protection also extends to healthcare. An employer may not refuse to extend health insurance to an employee who has a relationship or association with an individual who is disabled. For example, it is illegal for an employer to deny an employee health care coverage because they have a spouse or child who suffers from a disability.

It is important to note that the Association Provision does NOT require an employer to provide a reasonable accommodation to a person without a disability due to that person’s association or relationship.  Under the ADA, an individual with a disability may be eligible for a reasonable accommodation from their employer. A reasonable accommodation is a change, adjustment, or modification to a job that better enables an individual with a disability to successfully perform. However, only qualified applicants are eligible to receive reasonable accommodations. This means that employers do not have to modify their policies for non-disabled employees solely because they have a spouse, child, or friend who suffers from a disability. Instead, under the ADA, all an employer is required to do is treat employees equally when someone has a known association with a disabled person.

Despite the legal protections afforded under the ADA, disability discrimination persists. Therefore, it is important for individuals who believe they have been subjected to discrimination to be aware of their rights and seek legal assistance if necessary, and for employers to be aware of their obligations under the law.

Employers and employees should consult experienced legal counsel to be fully advised of their rights and obligations under the law. If you or a close friend or family member needs assistance in this area, consult the Employment Team at the Finney Law Firm.  Please contact Samantha Isaacs (513.797.2859) for more assistance on such a claim.