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Alert Supervisors to Little-Known Association-Bias Law

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By now, your supervisors know it's illegal to discriminate against someone because of his or her disability. But do they also know about a less obvious part of the ADA that makes it illegal to discriminate against people because they have an association with a person who has a disability?

For example, it's illegal to: 

  • Fire or refuse to hire someone because of an unfounded fear that he or she will be excessively absent or unproductive due to caring for a disabled child, or a fear that he or she will acquire a medical condition from a family member or friend.
  • Fire or refuse to hire (or deny benefits to) someone because of concern that an employee's association with individuals with disabilities will hurt the organization's image. (Example: discriminating against someone who volunteers with AIDS patients.)  
  • Refuse to provide health insurance for an employee's family member with a disability when you generally provide health insurance for employee dependents. 

Note: Employees are more sensitive to association bias now that the EEOC just published a Q&A fact sheet that explains this ADA provision. Read a copy at

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