HR News & Trends, Legal Issues

Court: No ADA Accommodations Required for Non-Disabled Employees

ADA

By Eric B. Meyer

Last week, we had a two-part series at The Employer Handbook on the interplay between the Family and Medical Leave Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The former clearly obligates employers to afford leave to an eligible employee to care for a sick child. But, what about the latter? That is, must an employer provide leave from work as a reasonable accommodation to an employee to permit her to care for a disabled child?

In a case decided earlier this month (Magnus v. St. Mark United Methodist Church), the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago held that the ADA does not require employers to provide reasonable accommodations to non-disabled workers.

Lessons on the ADA from the 7th Circuit

However, that does not mean that employers have carte blanche to discriminate against employees who must care for disabled loved ones. Here are a couple of other lessons from the Seventh Circuit:

  1. The ADA forbids an employer from discriminating against an employee because of a known disability of an individual with whom the employee is known to have a relationship or association. This is known as associational discrimination.
  2. An employer may not terminate (or refuse to hire) an employee for unfounded assumptions about the need to care for a disabled person.
  3. The ADA does not preclude an employer from firing an employee who violates an attendance policy, if the reason for the absence is to care for a disabled loved-one. (Editor’s note: It may violate the FMLA).

This was originally published on Eric B. Meyer’s blog, The Employer Handbook.

Eric B. Meyer is a partner in the Labor and Employment Group of the Philadelphia-based law firm of Dilworth Paxson LLP . He dedicates his practice to litigating and assisting employers on labor and employment issues affecting the workplace, including collective bargaining, discrimination, employee handbook policies, enforcement of restrictive covenants, and trade secret protection. Eric also serves as a volunteer mediator for the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Contact him at emeyer@dilworthlaw.com .