Can employer lawfully reject job candidate because caregiving for child with disability may affect job performance?


An employer interviewed applicants for a computer programmer position and determined that Arnold was the best candidate for the position. However, the employer was reluctant to hire Arnold because he disclosed during the interview that he is a divorced father and has sole custody of his son, who has a disability. Concluding that Arnold’s caregiving responsibilities may negatively impact his attendance and work performance, the employer offered the position to the second best qualified candidate and encouraged Arnold to apply for future openings if his caregiving responsibilities change. Arnold wants to file a complaint of discrimination. Does he have a valid complaint?


Yes. Under these circumstances, the employer violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by refusing to hire Arnold because of his association with an individual with a disability. Although federal equal employment laws do not prohibit discrimination against caregivers per se, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has described circumstances where discrimination against caregivers might constitute unlawful disparate treatment under the ADA.

In addition to prohibiting discrimination against a qualified worker because of his or her own disability, the ADA prohibits discrimination because of the disability of an individual with whom the worker has a relationship or an association, such as a child, spouse, or parent. Under this provision, an employer may not treat a worker less favorably based on a stereotypical assumption about the worker’s abilities to perform job duties satisfactorily while also providing care to a relative or other individual with a disability.

Source: EEOC Guidance: Unlawful Disparate Treatment of Workers with Caregiving Responsibilities, reported in CCH Employment Practices Guide, New Developments ¶5243.

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