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ADA: Association Provision

The association provision of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employment discrimination against an employee or applicant because of a known relationship or association with a person with a known disability. This means that an employer is prohibited from making adverse employment decisions based on unfounded concerns about the known disability of a family member or anyone else with whom the applicant or employee has a relationship or association.

The ADA does not require a family relationship for an individual to be protected by the association provision. The key is whether the employer is motivated by the individual's relationship or association with a person who has a disability.

Some examples of prohibited employer conduct include, but are not limited to:


**Making an adverse employment decision based on concerns about the disabilities of people with whom the employee has an association.

**Refusing to hire an applicant based on employer's belief that the applicant's need to care for his or her child with a disability will have a negative impact on the applicant's work attendance or performance.

**Rejecting an applicant or terminating an employee based on the increased health insurance costs that are or will be caused by a spouse's disability.

**Reducing the level of health insurance benefits the employer offers to an employee because his or her spouse has a disability, or subjecting an employee to different terms or conditions of insurance.

While the ADA prohibits adverse employment action based on association, it does not require employers to provide a reasonable accommodation to a person without a disability due to that person's association with someone with a disability. Only qualified applicants and employees with disabilities or perceived to have disabilities are entitled to reasonable accommodation.

However, an employer must avoid treating an employee differently than other employees because of his or her association with a person with a disability. For example, if an employer grants requests for unpaid leave for certain personal or family reasons, it is a violation of the ADA's association provision to deny a leave request because an employee wishes to use the time to assist a relative or a friend with a disability. Similarly, an employer is not required to provide additional health insurance coverage to an employee who is associated with a person with a disability.

Federal Government Resources

The ADA's Association Provision
Job Accommodation Network

Questions and Answers About the Association Provision of the Americans with Disabilities Act

September 2019 Court Ruling

Remember that the ADA Protects an Association with a Disabled Individual
Shawe Rosenthal | Sep 2019

Can You Demote an Employee Over a Child's Diagnosis?
Janette Levey Frisch | Oct 2019

Kelleher v. Fred A. Cook, Inc.,
Outten | Sep 2019

Appeals Court: Dad Fired After Child Born With Severe Disability Can Sue Under Americans With Disabilities Act
Forbes | Oct 2019

Additional Law Firm Articles

The ADA 'Association' Provision: What it is and Why Employers Need to Understand It
Lerch Early Brewer | Nov 2018

Adverse Employment Actions Based on Associational Disability Discrimination
Florida Bar Journal | Sep 2018

Fact or Fiction: The ADA requires accommodating an employee to care for a relative with a disability?
Fisher Broyles via The SHRM Blog | Aug 2018

ADA Coverage Beyond Actual Disabilities: Regarded As, Record Of, and Association
Great Lakes ADA Center | April 2018

Father's Termination Sufficiently Related to Suicidal Daughter to Support "Associational Discrimination" Under the Americans with Disabilities Act
Pospis Law | Feb 2018



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