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Most Californians likely understand that discriminating against a worker who is disabled is illegal in many cases. They may not realize that discriminating against a worker because of his or her relationship to a family member or loved one who is disabled is also prohibited under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and violating those provisions may result in substantial damages.

A New Mexico case illustrates the problem of associational disability discrimination. In the case, a company reportedly terminated a temporary employee and failed to offer her a permanent position because her attention was distracted by her 3-year-old daughter's disability. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the company agreed to pay the woman $165,000 to settle the lawsuit that had been brought by the agency on the woman's behalf.

There are three main types of associational disability discrimination, all of which are prohibited under the ADA. The woman's case was an example of distraction discrimination, which is discriminating against employees because they are distracted by caring for their disabled child or another family member. The second type is known as association discrimination, which is discriminating against a worker out of a fear that the family member's condition or disability will be contracted by the employee and others on the job. The final type is known as expense discrimination, which involves the employer's discrimination against the employee because of the cost of insuring the disabled family member.

Workplace disability discrimination is illegal, and workers who believe that they have been the victims of it might want to consult with employment law attorneys. In many cases, if circumstances warrant, the first step after going through appropriate company channels would be to file a claim with the EEOC.

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