The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled recently that an employer’s negative reaction to a non-disabled employee’s request for an accommodation to care for a relative with a disability can support an inference that a “subsequent adverse employment action was motivated by associational discrimination.”

Among other things, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects a non-disabled employee from discrimination based upon the person’s association with an individual with a disability.

In reversing a federal trial court, the Second Circuit concluded in Kelleher v. Fred A. Cook, Inc., No. 18-2385 (2d Cir. September 24, 2019), that the burden of establishing a threshold discrimination case under the ADA is minimal, and that simply because a non-disabled employee is not entitled to an accommodation does not mean that an ADA associational discrimination case fails.

According to the appeals court, this is especially true when after an employee requests an accommodation to care for an individual with a disability, the employer makes demeaning comments, demotes, and subsequently terminates the non-disabled employee. Such actions are enough to raise an inference that the termination was motivated by the employee’s relation to or association with an individual with a disability.

A copy of the Kelleher ruling is available here.

Members of the Center for Workplace Compliance (CWC) can read more here.