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Disabilities Are A Matter of Perception

Recently someone asked Workforce: “Does the ADA only apply to people who have a disability, or does it apply to anyone with a condition that is ‘perceived’ as a disability?”

In a sense, because the ADA protects those “perceived” as having a disability, it does not really matter whether a person has a disability. For example, if an employer takes adverse employment action against someone because the employer believes the employee has HIV, then the ADA will apply and the legality of an employer’s action will be determined by whether the employee can perform the essential functions of the position with a reasonable accommodation. It makes no difference whether or not the individual actually has the virus.

Source: Epstein, Becker & Green, November 10, 1998, New York.