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Can my boss fire me for having to care for a disabled relative?

A federal judge in Connecticut recently held that an employee’s termination after he was late for work several times in order to care for his disabled father could well be a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. (Kouromihelakis v. Hartford Fire Ins. Corp., 30 AD Cases 1349) (D. Conn. 2014). The employee alleged that he was fired because of his father’s disability, in a type of discrimination called “associational discrimination.”

In this case, the employee claimed that he was not subject to the company’s tardiness policy, because he was not an hourly but rather an exempt, salaried employee. After his father had a stroke, he helped to care for him and this care sometimes caused him to arrive at work later than his scheduled 9 AM start time. He put the company on notice of the fact that he was late due to his father’s disability, but they terminated his employment anyway.

The judge held that the ADA’s prohibition on disability discrimination extends to cases of this type, in which the employer discriminates based on the belief that an employee would need to take time off in order to care for a disabled relative or associate.

Do you think you may have been subject to unlawful discrimination? Let us know! Contact the Hayber, McKenna & Dinsmore!