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Mere ‘association’ with a disabled person doesn’t trigger need to accommodate

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in Discrimination and Harassment,FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

A federal court has shot down an employee’s claim that he should have received an accommodation because of his association with a disabled individual.

That’s good news, as it nixes time off to care for a disabled individual if the employee isn’t otherwise eligible for FMLA leave.

Recent case: Joseph Young worked for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in immigration enforcement. He was required to pass gun-safety and target tests to keep his job. On the day he was scheduled for certification, Young said he couldn’t take the test because he was upset over his father’s deteriorating health. The DHS refused to reschedule the test, so Young failed.

He sued, claiming discrimination based on association with a disabled individual. He argued that he should have been accommodated with a rescheduled test.

The court didn’t agree. It said that employers aren’t required to change schedules to accommodate an employee who merely associates with a disabled person, so no test rescheduling was required. (Young v. DHS, No. 10-Civ-9571, SD NY, 2011)

Final note: This was a case where the employee was merely upset by his father’s health, not required to care for him during the scheduled testing. Nor was the employee himself suffering from a serious health condition.

Of course, if you are covered by the FMLA and the employee is eligible for leave to care for a disabled relative with a serious health condition, you must provide FMLA leave.

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