According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a New Mexico Orthopaedic medical facility will pay $165,000 to settle a lawsuit. You probably guessed it from the title, but the medical facility settled a lawsuit for associational disability discrimination. Just a reminder, associational discrimination can occur when a company denies, in some way, equal jobs or benefits to someone because that person is associated with someone else who has a disability. The EEOC is looking for more than just money though. In addition to the pecuniary loss, the medical facility will have to give annual anti-discrimination training for its employees and report to the EEOC if there are any further complaints of disability discrimination.
According to the press release, the EEOC sued the medical facility for firing a temporarily staffed employee, and failing to employ her for full time because of her relationship with her then three year old daughter, who was considered disabled under the Americans with Disability Act (ADA). “The ADA specifically prohibits discrimination against mothers, fathers, caregivers, family members or otherwise who are associated with persons with disabilities” said EEOC’s Regional Attorney Mary Jo O’Neill. "Employers, especially those employers in medical fields, should be careful to provide employment opportunities based solely on the qualifications of the employee or applicant and not impermissible factors such as their association with an individual with a disability."
This is an important lesson to be learned. Employers should train their managers and hiring staff to ask the right interview questions and stay away from ones that ask about the disabilities of others with whom the applicant may associate.