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Can My Job Discriminate Against Me Because Of My Spouse’s Disability?

by | Jun 21, 2022 | Employment Discrimination, Employment Law, Family Medical Leave Claims, Gender Discrimination, Wrongful Termination |

On June 6, 2022, the United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin, which is in the Seventh Circuit issued an opinion in Brown v. Green County, No. 20-CV-1100-SLC, 2022 WL 1978734 (W.D.Wisc. June 6, 2022) involving a case where an employee alleged that she was passed over for a promotion because of her relationship with her disabled husband.

In Brown, the employee’s husband suffered from multifocal motor neuropathy. During her employment, she requested and received intermittent FMLA leave for her to care for her husband. When her supervisor was promoted, the employee applied for the vacant position.

Prior to submitting her application, the employee asked her former supervisor about the position when her supervisor stated: “Your husband is sick and you would have to take time off to take care of him. You don’t want this job. It’s too stressful. You wouldn’t’ be able to do it.”

While this supervisor’s comments were completely inappropriate, what made things worse is that she was also on the interview panel for the open position and provided feedback regarding who would be ultimately selected. During discussions after the employee’s interview, the former supervisor provided negative feedback.

Ultimately, the employee was not selected for the open position. After filing suit, the defendant filed a motion for summary judgment to have the case dismissed.

In denying summary judgment, the Brown court held that a jury could find that the employee was denied a promotion in part because of her husband’s disability due to the former supervisor’s knowledge of the disability and her involvement in the hiring process following the inappropriate statement.

What is associational disability discrimination?

Best Employment Discrimination Lawyer Answer: Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and Ohio R.C. § 4112, an employer is prohibited from discriminating against an employee because someone the employee is related to or has an association with is disabled. Our employment attorneys have previously blogged about how a disability is defined under the ADA and Ohio R.C. § 4112, and what requirements an employer has when an employee notifies it of a qualified disability. (Best Law Read: Is Epilepsy A Protected Disability At Work?; Does The ADA Protect Transitory Conditions Like COVID Or A Broken Leg?; What Are My Mental Health Rights At Work?). Although an employer is not required to provide an accommodation to the non-disabled employee taking care of an individual with a disability the ADA and Ohio R.C. § 4112, the employer cannot treat that employee unfavorably based on assumptions about the need to care for the disabled person.

How do you prove associational disability discrimination in the workplace?

Best Disability Discrimination Lawyer Answer: To determine whether an employee has met its prima facie case for associational disability discrimination under the ADA and Ohio R.C. § 4112, a court will examine four elements. (Best Law Read: What does prima facie mean?). Those four elements are: (1) whether the employee was qualified for the job at the time of the adverse employment action; (2) whether the employee was subjected to an adverse employment action; (3) whether the employee was known by the employer at the time to be related to or associated with someone with a disability; and (4) the case falls into one of the three relevant categories: expense, disability by association, or distraction.

What should I do about associational disability discrimination on my job?

Best Ohio Employment Firm for Employees Answer: If you have been discriminated against because you are related to or are associated with someone who is disabled, call the right attorney to schedule a free and confidential consultation. Our employee’s rights lawyers are here for you in Ohio, Michigan, and North Carolina. Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm and its attorneys are experienced and dedicated to protecting disabled employees’ rights under ADA and Ohio employment law.


This employment law website is an advertisement. The disability discrimination and accommodation materials available at the top of this page and on this employment law website are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. If you are still asking about the particulars of your workplace discrimination issues, it would be best for you to contact an exerienced employment attorney to obtain advice with respect to disability discrimination questions or any particular employment law issue. Use and access to this employment law website or any of the links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship. The legal opinions expressed at or through this site are the opinions of the individual lawyer and may not reflect the opinions of The Spitz Law Firm, attorney, Brian Spitz or any individual attorney.

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