EEOC Office of Legal Counsel staff members wrote the following informal discussion letter in response to an inquiry from a member of the public. This letter is intended to provide an informal discussion of the noted issue and does not constitute an official opinion of the Commission.
ADA: Reasonable Accommodation
August 16, 2001
This is in response to your letter of June 6, 2001, to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) regarding the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). According to your letter, one of your coworkers works in a group in which the employees normally rotate on-call duty. She had been exempted from this duty because she cannot find after hours care for her child, who has autism, without advance notice. Your coworker is now required to be available for this on-call duty. You wanted to know if she has any statutory protections under the laws that we enforce. You also wanted to know if your coworker's workgroup members would have a valid discrimination claim if she is not forced to be available for on-call duty.
The EEOC enforces Title I of the ADA, which prohibits discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities because of a disability. 42 U.S.C. § 12112; 29 C.F.R. § 1630.4. Title I also prohibits an employer from denying equal employment opportunities to individuals because of their known association with someone who has a disability. The ADA does not, however, require an employer to provide reasonable accommodations, such as an exemption from on-call duty, to individuals who have an "association" with an individual with a disability. This is because accommodations are only for the known physical and mental limitations of otherwise qualified individuals with disabilities. Of course, the ADA would not prohibit an employer from providing such an accommodation if it chose to do so.
Although your co-worker would not be entitled to a reasonable accommodation in order to care for her child, she might still have a claim based on the "association" provision in the ADA if she could show, for example, that other employees were exempted from on call duty for child care reasons. In order to claim protection under either Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) or the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), your co-worker would need to show that she was being denied an exemption from on-call duty because of her race, color, gender, national origin, religion, or age (forty years old or older).
In answer to your second question, your letter does not provide us with enough information to know what type of employment discrimination the workgroup members would claim. However, if they brought a claim under either Title VII or the ADEA, your employer would have a defense, namely, that its legitimate non-discriminatory reason for exempting your co-worker from on-call duty and treating her differently from others in her workgroup, is her need to care for her son. (1)
Your letter does not indicate, nor can we comment on, whether any of your co-worker's workgroup members could claim a violation of a collective bargaining agreement.
I hope that this information has been helpful to you. Please note that this letter is an informal discussion of the issues raised by you and is not an official opinion of the EEOC. In addition, our failure to address other matters that may have been presented should not be construed as agreement with statements or analysis related to those matters.
ADA Policy Division
1. Please note as well that individuals without disabilities, other than those who have a known association with an individual with a disability, are generally not protected under the ADA.
This page was last modified on April 27, 2007.
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