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Does the ADA Allow for Time Off to Care for a Family Member with a Disability?

A familiar scenario that I encounter as an employment discrimination lawyer:  You have a family member with a disability, but for one reason or another, you do not qualify for leave under the Family & Medical Leave Act.  You need time off from work to attend to or care for the family member with a disability.  Does the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) require your employer to allow you to take time off from work to care for that family member?  Sadly, no.

Generally, the ADA affords the bulk of its protections to individuals who personally have one or more disability.  That includes the right to reasonable accommodation in order to perform the essential functions of the job.  However, the ADA only grants very limited protections to an employee who does not personally have a disability, but who is related to or associates with a person who does.  The ADA provides that an employer cannot discriminate against an employee because he or she is related to or associates with a person with a disability.  For example, an employer cannot refuse to hire or terminate an employee because the employee has a family member with a disability and the employer fears that the employee will need time off from work to attend to that family member.  However, the provision of the ADA which prohibits employers from discriminating against disability-free employees who are related to or associate with a person with a disability does not require the employer to grant accommodations to the disability-free employee.  As a result, the employer is not required by the ADA to grant time off to the disability-free employee in order to attend to or provide care for a relative with a disability.  This is a very unfortunate gap in the law.

We hope you found this update to be helpful.  Please do not hesitate to contact us should you have any questions.


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Joey S. Niskar
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