John A. Klassen, PA Minnesota Employment Law Attorney
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What happens if the ADA Association Provision is violated?

Workers in Minnesota may have a basic understanding of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination against a disabled employee in any aspect of employment. What they may not know is, however, that the ADA also prohibits discrimination against workers based on that worker's association with a disabled individual.

If a worker believes that his or her employer has discriminated against him or her based on that worker's association with a disabled person, he or she needs to first file a "charge of discrimination" with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The worker can do so either via the U.S. Postal Service or in person at an area EEOC office. The worker has 180 days starting from when the alleged act of discrimination last occurred to file a charge. However, the worker may have up to 300 days to do so if there is a state or local law against disability discrimination in the workplace that would also apply to the charge.

After that, the EEOC will provide the employer with notification about the charge. It may also ask the employer to respond to the charge and provide information in support of the response. Following that, the EEOC may send the charge to a mediation program in hopes of avoiding a potentially lengthy investigation. Mediation is provided at no cost and is voluntary. In mediation, the discussions between the employee and employer will remain confidential.

If a charge is not sent to mediation or if mediation does not achieve a successful result, the EEOC will perform an investigation. The purpose of the investigation is to determine whether or not "reasonable cause" exists to allege that the employer did indeed discriminate against the worker. If there is reasonable cause, the EEOC will attempt to first reach a resolution regarding the issue. If the EEOC is unable to reach a resolution, it will either file an action with the court or give the worker a "right to sue," meaning the worker has 90 days after notification to file a lawsuit.

This is only a brief overview of this aspect of disability discrimination, and not every worker's claim will follow the exact same process precisely. If a worker believes he or she was discriminated against just because he or she has some sort of association with a disabled individual, he or she may want to consult with an attorney before taking action.

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