Be Careful Whom You Don’t Hire

by Phillip M. Schreiber, Attorney
McBride Baker & Coles

Can you be sued for not hiring a disabled person?

Yes, indeed…but that’s not all.

Employers must be aware that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects not only job applicants and employees who are disabled, but also applicants and employees who associate with disabled individuals.

The Real Story

In April 1999, a job applicant claimed that she was denied employment because the company feared that she would be distracted by her newborn’s medical needs. In this case, filed with the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, the job applicant’s daughter was born eight weeks prematurely and required intestinal surgery. The baby also needed a heart monitor and other constant monitoring for a year. There was evidence that the employer knew about the baby’s medical condition at the time it decided not to hire the applicant.

The Law

Employers cannot discriminate against applicants or employees merely because they have a child, spouse, parent, or friend who is disabled. However, if the employee’s job performance suffers as a result of that other person’s disability, the employer is not required to provide the same "reasonable accommodation" owed to employees or applicants who are disabled themselves.

The Lesson

Employers should not speculate about how employees or applicants will be able to deal with disabled family members. Instead, these applicants should be given the benefit of the doubt that they will be able to adequately perform their job duties.

Naomi R. Angel, legal counsel to DASMA, is experienced in commercial litigation, and is a trained mediator advising businesses on dispute resolution issues. Phillip M. Schreiber concentrates in the area of labor law. They practice with the Chicago law firm of McBride Baker & Coles and can be contacted at 312/715-5700 or, and