The EEOC recently announced the commencement of a new lawsuit which it filed accusing a leading health care provider in Maryland of violating the ADA for failing to provide a reasonable accommodation and then firing a pulmonary function technologist because she suffers from Usher’s Syndrome, a genetic disorder that impairs hearing and vision.

It is alleged that the company perceived that the employee’s disability interfered with her safely performing her job duties — after she worked there for almost 19 years.   She was removed from her responsibilities and then fired, even though there was “a suitable vacant position as a reasonable accommodation.”

Employers should be aware – but many are not – that the ADA prohibits making an adverse determination about an employee – such as termination — not only based upon a disability or record of disability, but also because the employer perceives the employee to be disabled.

An EEOC trial attorney stated in another case that “[E]mployers should not make decisions based on perceptions about someone’s supposed impairment. … the ADA requires employers to make an individualized assessment about an applicant or employee’s ability to do the job instead of acting out of speculative fears or biases.”  Another EEOC attorney said that “speculation and fears over … perceived disability …  is exactly the type of discrimination the ADA was meant to address and stop.”