ILNews

DTCI: Disabilities by association

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrint

By Theresa R. Parish
 

parish Parish

Association discrimination under the American with Disabilities Act is a lesser-known type of discrimination that has been litigated infrequently in Indiana. However, this type of discrimination is a developing area of the law about which employers and practitioners should be well informed.

The “association” provision of the ADA protects applicants and employees from discrimination based on their relationship or association with an individual with a disability. The ADA prohibits covered employers from “excluding or otherwise denying equal jobs or benefits to a qualified individual because of the known disability of an individual with whom the qualified individual is known to have a relationship or association.” 42 U.S.C. § 12112(b)(4).

In Indiana, there have been few reported cases involving association discrimination. Most 7th Circuit decisions considering association discrimination claims originated in Illinois district courts.

In 2008, Congress enacted the American with Disabilities Act Amendments Act. Since the passage of the ADAAA, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and courts have seen a steady rise in the number of disability claims filed. According to the EEOC’s website, in 2007 (one year before enactment of the ADAAA), there were 17,734 EEOC charges of disability filed nationally. In 2011, that number rose to a record high of 25,742. In theory, association discrimination complaints have increased as well.

Categories of association discrimination

To establish a prima facie case of association discrimination under the ADA, a plaintiff must show the following: (1) the plaintiff was qualified for the job at the time of the adverse employment action; (2) the plaintiff was subjected to an adverse employment action; (3) the plaintiff was known by his employer at the time to have a relative or associate with a disability; and (4) the adverse employment action occurred under circumstances raising a reasonable inference that the disability of the relative or associate was a determining factor in the employer’s decision. See Larimer v. International Business Machines Corp., 370 F.3d 698, 701 (7th Cir. 2004).

The court in Larimer explained that claims for association discrimination typically fall within three categories: expense, disability by association and distraction. The expense category includes situations where an employer terminates an employee whose relative had a disability that would cost the employer because he is covered by the employer’s health plan. The disability-by-association category encompasses situations where an employer terminates an employee whose relative has a disease that the employer fears the employee has or will contract, such as HIV. The distraction category includes situations where an employer terminates an employee who is somewhat inattentive at work because his relative has a disability that requires his attention, yet not so inattentive that to perform to his employer’s satisfaction would require an accommodation.

Expense category

The 7th Circuit discussed disability by association for the first time in Larimer and affirmed summary judgment for the employer in an action brought by a former employee whose wife gave birth to premature twin daughters for claims brought under the ADA and ERISA. The twin daughters were hospitalized for approximately two months, and the employer’s health care plan paid almost $200,000 in hospital expenses. Shortly after the twin daughters went home from the hospital, the former employee was terminated for poor performance.

The court found that the former employee’s claim did not fit within any of three categories of disability association claims. The twin daughters’ premature births were neither communicable nor predictive of the former employee becoming disabled. There was no evidence that the former employee was absent or distracted at work. The only category in dispute was expense. However, the court found that the former employee’s claim did not fit within this category because there was no evidence that the employer had a financial stake in terminating an employee with expensive health benefit claims. The court suggested that the former employee would need to demonstrate that his family’s health benefits were linked to his managers’ budgets and/or that his managers’ compensation was tied to overall company performance or a profit-sharing plan.

The Larimer decision demonstrates that a claim for association discrimination requires more than a general allegation that an employer terminated an employee due to health-related expenses incurred by an associated individual. Rather, a plaintiff must produce specific evidence that the employer had a financial interest directly related to the health care costs resulting from the associated individual’s disability. A more recent 7th Circuit case illustrates the specific evidence that must be present to survive summary judgment.

In Dewitt v. Proctor Hospital, 517 F.3d 944, 949 (7th Cir. 2008), the court reversed summary judgment in favor of the employer for the reason that fact issues existed as to whether the partially self-insured employer was motivated to terminate an employee by association discrimination. The employee alleged that the employer violated the ADA when it terminated her in order to control the heath care costs related to her husband’s cancer treatment. The employer was self-insured and paid for its members’ medical expenses up to $250,000. Every quarter, the employer produced reports that listed employees’ medical claims that exceeded $25,000. These reports highlighted the employee’s husband’s expenses. On at least two occasions, the employer questioned the employee about her medical expenses and the treatment her husband was receiving. Subsequently, the employer informed its employees that it faced financial trouble that required “creative” cost-cutting measures. Shortly thereafter, the employee was terminated. The 7th Circuit found that the employee provided “direct evidence” of association discrimination. In other words, a reasonable juror could conclude that the employer “faced a financial struggle of indeterminate length, was concerned that Anthony — a multi-year cancer veteran — might linger on indefinitely,” and therefore the employee had a viable claim of association discrimination. Id.

Disability-by-association category

There are no reported 7th Circuit decisions dealing with the disability-by-association category. As explained above, disability by association includes situations where an employer terminates an employee whose relative has a disease that the employer fears the employee has or will have. For instance, the employee’s companion is infected with HIV, and the employer fears that the employee will become infected as well. See Larimer, 370 F.3d at 700. Another example is the case where an employee’s relative has a disease that has a genetic component, and the employee is likely to develop the disability. Id.

Distraction category

The legislative history of the association provision of the ADA distinguishes between two different situations in which the employer’s actions are permissible and impermissible under the distraction category. See H.R. Rep. No. 101-485, pt. 2 at 61-62 (1990). For instance, an applicant applies for a job and discloses to the prospective employer that his spouse has a disability. The prospective employer believes that the applicant is qualified for the position. However, the employer assumes that the applicant will have to miss work or leave work early in order to care for his spouse. The employer decides to not hire the individual for these reasons. The prospective employer’s actions in this situation violate the ADA. Id.

In contrast, assume that the prospective employer hires the applicant. If the employee violates a neutral employer policy concerning attendance or tardiness, the employee may be terminated even if the reason for the absence or tardiness is to care for the spouse with the disability. Id. The legislative history teaches us that there is no obligation for an employer to provide an accommodation to a nondisabled employee. Id. See also 29 C.F.R. § 1630.8 App. at 379 (2007) (an employee is not entitled to a modified work schedule to allow him to care for a disabled relative).

In one of the limited reported cases from Indiana, Cavender v. Sunbelt Rentals, Inc., 2007 WL 3119693, *12 (S.D. Ind.), the former employee sued his former employer for violations of the FMLA and ADA. He claimed that he was terminated for taking leave to care for his son. The former employee argued that his claim fit under the distraction category. The court granted the employer’s motion for summary judgment because there was no evidence that it terminated the employee because of his association with his son. The court determined that the former employee’s situation did not fit within the distraction category. He required time off in order to care for his son, but he was not “inattentive at work.” As explained above, the association provision of the ADA does not require an employer to accommodate a nondisabled employee. Accordingly, the district court found that the former employee did not set forth a prima facie case of association discrimination.
 

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Indiana State Bar Association

Indianapolis Bar Association

Evansville Bar Association

Allen County Bar Association

Indiana Lawyer on Facebook

facebook
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. Am I the only one who sees that the City is essentially giving away the MSA site AND giving millions to build new buildings on the site when this site would be the perfect place for the Justice Complex? Across from City-County, check; keeping it centrally located, check, etc. It's my understanding that the GM site must be purchased by the City from Motors Liquidation Company. STOP WASTING WHAT WE ALREADY HAVE AND OUR TAX DOLLARS! The Ballard Administration has not been known for it's common sense...never voted for him and never will!

  2. This guy sounds like the classic molester/manipulator.

  3. Louis D. Brandeis was born in 1856. At 9 years of age it would have been 1865. The Brandeis family did not own slaves. My source Louis D. Brandeis: A Life, by Melvin L. Urofsky.

  4. My name is Matthew Lucas Major, I recently went through a jury trial in Bloomington , In. It was the week of Feb 19-21. Although I have been incarcerated since August 5, 2014. The reason I 'am writing to you sir is on the 21 of February the jury came in with a very excessive and wrongful verdict of guilty on 6 child molesting charges against my daughter who was 9 at the time I was accused. I also had 2 other Felonies one of Intimidation and 1 of Sexual Vicarious Gratification. Judge Marc Kellam on the second day of trial gave me a not guilty on those 2 felonies. The jury was sent out during that time and when brought back Judge Kellam told them to not concern themselves with the 2 Felonies that he ruled on them. They were told to not let evidence they had already heard influence there verdicts. I never in my life touched any child sexually and definitely not with my own daughter. When I was arrested Detective Shawn Karr told me I would be convicted guilty just on my daughters word even without evidence. That's just what happened. my public defender did me so wrong he never once proved to the court and jury all the lies the child told, and Jeremy Noel my public defender could of proven the lies easily. The stories in Serenity's depositions and Forensic interview changed and were not consistent as Prosecutor Darcie Fawcett claimed they were. Yet my attorney never mentioned that. The facts that the child accused me of full penetration in her vagina and rectum was proven lies. Doctor Roberta Hibbard of Riley hospital in Indianapolis confirmed Serenity's hymen intact, no scars, no tearing, no signs of rape to her. Yet my attorney didn't use that knowledge . the DNA was all in my favor. I tell you I will spend my entire life in prison going through rape and beatings etc. even Judge Kellam abused his authority by telling the jurors to listen and believe what the prosecutors side in evidence like my daughters testimony. In one interview with the detectives my daughter got flustered with her mom and said on camera " I'm saying what you told me to mom"!! Yet Mr. Noel said nor did anything to even resemble a defense attorney. Judge Kellam allowed edited version of a taped conversation between the child and her mother. Also Judge Kellam allowed the Prosecutor too bring in to my case a knife found under my seat, the knife wasn't part of my case. She was allowed by my attorney and the judge to put a huge picture of it on the screen and huge picture of my naked privates in a full courtroom and open court. Ms. Fawcett says to jury see how easy Mr. Major could reach the knife and cut his Childs throat. Even though I had no weapons charge against these cases. This gave the jurors prejudice thought against me thinking I threatened her with that knife and how scared she would of been knowing i could get it and kill her. On my sentencing court March 19, 2014 my public defender told Judge Kellam he wish to resign from being my attorney and wished for the court to give me outside council to file a error to trial or appeal. We were denied. Now after openly knowing my public defender don't want to represent me he has to. Well when as parents we make our kids clean a room when they really don't wish to, well the child will but don't mean she will do a good job, that's where I'm at with Mr. Noel. please dont ignore mine and my families pleas for your help . we have all the legal proof you could need to prove Im innocent. Please dont make my spend years in prison innocent when you can fix this wrong. Im not saying Im a perfect man or that I was a perfect dad to my 2 children none of us are. Ive made some bad choices in life and I paid for them. But I didnt ever touch or rape my daughter . I love my children with all my heart. And now through needing attention and a ex-wife who told my granny several times she wish she could put me in prison to get me out of their lives. Well my ex finally accomplished her goal. Sad part is she is destroying our daughter with all this horrific lies and things she taught my daughter to say. My daughter will need therapist to ever hope for a chance of a normal life after what she had done to her by her mom and their side of the family. My daughter told everyone even on stand she had a dream months before i supposedly molested her in this dream I was molesting her and when I finally did it matched her dream perfectly. She admitted to watching movies about little girls being molested and watching U-Tube videos about child molesting all before it happened supposedly to her. Doesn't that sound very unusual that a non molested 9 yr old would need to know so much about being molested? The only reason I could think a 9 year old would need so much information is to be prepared to know what to say and be able to say how it felt what took place etc.. So when questioned by authorities she would be prepared. And there again sir if a parent is pre grooming a 9 year old child she would need intimate details . Like telling her daughter about a couple moles on my private area. The child admitted to sneaking my cell and looking many many times at nudes of me and my girlfriend even one where my penis was entering my girlfriends vagina. In that picture my moles are obvious. Yet when prosecutor showed everyone in court my privates and pictures of the moles she said the only way the child would know about them is if she saw them for herself. My attorney once again said nothing about the pictures my child saw. Or could a ex-wife be able to describe my moles to help her case against getting rid of me? I beg you help me. This is my very existence. Ive lost everything , a good job, a wonderful girlfriend, my freedom, but worse thing Ive lost is my children. They were my reason to get up every morning and strive to be better. The wonderful bond I had with my Serenity is gone. After this I would be afraid to even hug her for fear of what next can they do to me. I'm not afraid to tell you I sit here in this cell and try to hold back my tears. Everyone knows you cant show weakness in prison. My life has already been threatened here at Wabash Valley Prison. After only 3 days of arrival. I was tricked into signing a waiver now Im in G Block General Population with 6 child molesting felony charges. Mrs. Hart as a 18 year old I almost died hooked to machines in hospital almost 1 month and now I know that fear was childish compared to this . I cant help but put emotions in this, after all Mrs. Hart Im human and God help Me I never been more afraid in my life. I didnt hurt my little girl I didnt touch her sexually. As much as it shreds me and fills my mind what Im facing I worry more about my mom and granny because of their great love for me mam they are suffering so deeply. I aint done this things but my loved ones suffering right along beside me and If you take my case you will be in essence freeing them also. I sent momma this letter and asked her to email it to you. I'm scared I have been done so unjustly by our legal system and I need you to fix this and give me freedom. I ask you please don't just ignore my pleas. Here in America its nice to be able to trust our legal justice system, well they destroyed my and my loved ones trust in our justice system . And I'm trusting in You !!! My entire family is suffering this nightmare with me. My 77 year old granny had a stroke and isn't doing so well. My single mother that raised 3 kids alone is dying from Lupus and since my arrest has stayed so sick and weary. Our lives torn to peices by a government I was taught I could trust in. my momma has tried so many innocent project and wrongfully accused and cant get anywhere. please please help me. A quote from the late Nelson Mandela: To be free is not merely to cast off ones chains, But to live in a way that respects and enhances The Freedom Of Others. I have Faith in you and your clinic to cast my chains off and give me freedom I do deserve as a wrongfully accused Man, son, brother, father, friend. Matthew Major DOC# 246179 Cause # : 53c02-1308-FA-000779 God Bless you. Please contact me with your decision so I know you made a life changing decision for me , just please at least write me so I know you care enough about your citizens to respond to cries for your help. You can speak openly with my mother Charlotte Spain (828) 476-0406: 71 Lakeview Dr. Canton, NC 28716 Thank You Matthew Major I know yall get thousands of request and inmates claiming innocence, and each person who are innocent deserve to have organizations like yours willing to fight for them and I give yall so much Thanks and I thank God everyday yall are out there caring enough to help free the innocents. Since discovering firsthand how easily lives and families can be destroyed by Poor Defense attorneys not doing their job . And Prosecutors allowed to do as they please in court

  5. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

ADVERTISEMENT