You are probably aware of how federal and state laws protect employees with disabilities. Employers must accommodate workers with special needs and cannot use a disability as an excuse to fire or not hire someone who is capable of fulfilling the job duties.
However, you may not be aware that you also receive similar protection under the law when a loved one, rather than you, has a disability. You may not be eligible for accommodations, but you do qualify for fair treatment in the following ways.
Hiring and firing practices
An employer cannot hire or fire you based on your relationship or association with a disabled person. The employer may do this out of fear of any of the following:
- You will be unable to work due to caring for the disabled person
- You will tarnish the company's reputation through your interactions with disabled persons
- You will acquire the condition yourself
- You will transmit a disease to others, if possible
- You will increase health insurance costs for the business
- You will make others feel uncomfortable due to your relationship or association
Letting a loved one's disability weigh in the decision still counts as discrimination according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Note that you do not need to be related to the disabled person or responsible for his or her full care to qualify for protection. You can just be a volunteer at a place for disabled citizens.
Health care coverage
Perhaps a potential boss decides to still hire you but under terms that grant you less health coverage or none at all to avoid higher insurance costs. You are entitled to as much coverage as other employees receive.
Other work benefits
The same rules also apply to promotions, raises, perks, vacation time, medical leave, company culture (harassment) and other rights and benefits. For example, your employer cannot ask you not to bring your disabled loved one to a work function that other employees are allowed to bring loved ones to. You must receive the same treatment as everyone else.