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Ex-employee sues for workplace discrimination, wins

The Americans with Disabilities Act has made the work environment a safer and fairer place for disabled employees. Some people in Florida may not know that the ADA can even apply to employees who are caring for a disabled loved one and not just disabled workers. Unfortunately, what this means is that some caretakers suffer workplace discrimination simply for taking care of a family member.

An out-of-state insurance company sales consultant was scheduled to arrive at work at 9 a.m., although his position as an exempt employee meant that he was not bound by the tardiness policy in place. He apparently arrived at his scheduled time regardless of the fact that the policy did not even apply to his work status. However, he became one of his father's caregivers following his dad's stroke, making it difficult to make it in to work at 9 a.m. sharp.

Because of his new status as partial caregiver for his father, the man asked his company if he could instead work flexible hours. Although flexible hours were covered under the company's policy,his requests were never granted. Instead, he was reportedly written up for being late under the tardiness policy that never applied to him in the first place. When he was afforded four hours off of work, he came in at 1:26 p.m., 26 minutes into his scheduled lunchtime, but was told that he was still considered late. He was subsequently fired.

Believing that he had been discriminated against, he filed suit against the company. Under the ADA, employees caring for a loved one can suffer associational discrimination, meaning that the discrimination was based on the employer's knowledge of a family member's disability and the employee's participation in his or her care. The suit further cited the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission which had previously ruled that employers were not permitted to fire a worker because he or she may have to care for a disabled family member. 

Although it's unclear what damages he sought, the employee successfully settled his case. Florida workers who believe that they have also suffered through workplace discrimination may find that a similar course of action can be appropriate. If successfully navigated to completion, victims can be awarded lost wages and other related damages.

Source: hr.blr.com, "Employee fired for caring for disabled parent: ADA discrimination?", Tony Puckett, Dec. 31, 2014

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