Employment Decisions Based Upon Perceptions Of Disability Violates The ADA

Firing an employee if you perceive that he/she is disabled is just as violative of the Americans With Disabilities Act (“ADA”) as if he/she actually had a disability.

A Tampa company was just sued by the EEOC under the ADA for, as one EEOC official said, “Making employment decisions based on perceptions of disability [which] clearly violates federal civil rights law.”

Why was she fired?

As the EEOC said, the company “regarded her as disabled based on its unfounded fears and beliefs about Ebola in Ghana and the risk that she would contract Ebola on her trip.”

An EEOC regional attorney, in discussing the ADA, noted that “Congress sought to protect people from being discriminated against based on unsubstantiated fears, myths, and unfounded stereotypes about actual or perceived disabilities.  The employer conduct which the EEOC found in this case flouts the fundamental purpose of that very important law.”

Takeaway: The ADA prohibits employment discrimination based on myths and stereotypes about people with disabilities or perceived to have disabilities, and the EEOC is still targeting these cases. 


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Richard Cohen

Richard B. Cohen is a partner in the New York City office of FisherBroyles, LLP, a national law firm. Richard Cohen has litigated and arbitrated complex corporate, commercial and employment disputes for more than 35 years, and is a trusted advisor to business owners and in-house counsel both in the United States and internationally. His clients have included Fortune 100 companies, domestic and foreign commercial and investment banks, Pacific-rim corporations and real estate development companies, as well as start-up businesses throughout the United States. Email Richard at [email protected]