The ADA Does Not Cover Potential Future Disabilities


In a case of first impression, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit rejected the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s argument that an employer regarded an employee as disabled when it terminated her employment based on its fear that she would contract Ebola during an upcoming trip to Africa.

The Americans with Disabilities Act has a broad definition of disability, covering not only those individual with actual disabilities, but also those who have a record of disability and those who are “regarded as” disabled by the employer. In EEOC v. STME, LLC dba Massage Envy-South Tampa, the court addressed the “regarded as” definition of disability, and it concluded that “the disability definition in the ADA does not cover this case where an employer perceives a person to be presently healthy with only a potential to become ill and disabled in the future …” In so ruling, the court noted that the EEOC’s own interpretive guidance states that a predisposition to developing an illness or disease is not a physical impairment.