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Under What Circumstances Is Caregiver Status Protected?


If our employee has a child with special needs, are they considered to be in a “protected” category in any way?


The employee isn’t necessarily “protected”; however, under the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act– which covers private employers with 15+ employees and all state & local government employees) there is protection for employees who are “associated” with a person with a disability.  It’s a bit of a gray area, but essentially the company cannot treat a worker less favorably based on stereotypical assumptions about the employee being able to perform their job duties while also caring for their disabled child (in your example).  A company shouldn’t refuse to hire a candidate because they know their child has a disability (some employers might do this due to worrying about the employee being away from work, high insurance premiums, etc.).  So, even though a company doesn’t have to make reasonable accommodations for someone who is associated with someone with a disability, the employer can’t discriminate against them.  The EEOC enforces the ADA discrimination laws.

Additionally, for a company who meets the guidelines for FMLA, the Department of Labor does specify that parents of adult children with disabilities (or any child with a serious health condition perhaps stemming from a disability) would be entitled to the 12 weeks/year of job protected leave.  Here is a link to the Department of Labor’s guidelines.

FMLA and other workplace compliance issues  can be difficult to understand, let alone enforce. That’s where strategic HR inc. has you covered. We bring years of HR experience and know-how to the table. We can assist you with your tough compliance issues and help you sleep more soundly at night. Visit our Compliance page to learn more.