Father’s Termination Sufficiently Related to Suicidal Daughter to Support “Associational Discrimination” Under the Americans with Disabilities Act

In Reiter v. Maxi-Aids, Inc., 14-cv-3712, 2018 WL 557864 (E.D.N.Y. Jan. 19, 2018), the court (inter alia) upheld a jury’s determination that plaintiff was subject to “associational discrimination” under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In sum, defendant’s principal (Zaretsky) terminated plaintiff shortly after plaintiff advised Zaretsky about an issue concerning his daughter, Bailey, who suffered from anxiety and suicidal thoughts.

The court explained the law of associational discrimination under the ADA:

Under the ADA, a party discriminates by “excluding or otherwise denying equal jobs or benefits to a qualified individual because of the known disability of an individual with whom the qualified individual is known to have a relationship or association.” 42 U.S.C. § 12212(b)(4) A claim for associational discrimination under this section requires plaintiff establish: that he was qualified for the job; 2) that he was subjected to an adverse employment action; 3) that he was known at the time of that action to have a relative or associate with a disability; and 4) that the adverse employment action “occurred under circumstances raising a reasonable inference that the disability of the relative or associate was a determining factor in the employer’s decision.

Initially, the court held that Bailey – who was diagnosed as “actively suicidan, chronic depression and acute anxiety disorder” – had a “qualifying disability” under the ADA.

As to the fourth element, the court found that there was sufficient evidence that Bailey’s medical condition was a “determining factor” in its decision to terminate the plaintiff.

It noted, inter alia, (1) the close temporal proximity between defendant learning of Bailey’s condition and its decision to terminate plaintiff; (2) evidence that the financial reasons given for plaintiff’s termination were pretextual, (3) Zaeretsky’s expressed views on the health of his employees and the impact on the company’s insurance policy, and (4) testimony that Zaretsky believed plaintiff would be distracted by plaintiff’s daughter’s condition.

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