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Association Discrimination

Association Discrimination

An employer is prohibited from discriminating against an employee due to the employee's association with someone in a protected class. This form of illegal discrimination is called association discrimination. Association discrimination is prohibited by existing civil rights statutes including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act. (FMLA). Association discrimination claims involve situations where an employer: (1) discriminates against an employee because of spouse's or relative's disability; (2) discriminates or harasses an employee because the employee is married to someone of a different race or national origin; and (3) discriminates against an employee because the employee is a parent or care provider of children. There can also be a retaliation claims based upon association. For example, an employer cannot retaliate against an employee in response to the activities of another employee to whom the employee is related to or associated with in some way. How does someone know if an employer has committed discrimination on the basis of association? Here is the legal framework that an employee needs to satisfy to make out an association discrimination case. The following is the framework for a disability association claim (framework would equally apply for other association claims). One, the employee was qualified for the job. Two, the employee suffered an adverse employment action (termination, demotion, denial of promotion, failure to hire). Three, the employer knew that the employee was related or associated with someone with a disability. Four, the adverse employment action occurred under circumstances that gives rise to a reasonable inference that the disability of the relative, spouse, significant other, etc. was a substantial factor in the employer's decision.


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