New Jersey: Definition of “Disabled” Limited


All Employers with NJ Employees


June 7, 2023



Contact HR On-Call

(888) 378-2456

Quick Look

  • Mild, transitory illnesses may not qualify as a protected disability or perceived disability.


In Guzman v. M. Teixeira International, Inc., the New Jersey Appellate Division stated that a perceived mild case of COVID-19 did not rise to the level of a “disability” within the meaning of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD). Generally, “disability” under the NJLAD is a disability caused by bodily injury, birth defect, or illness resulting from anatomical, psychological, physiological, or neurological conditions which prevents the typical exercise of any bodily or mental functions or is demonstrable by accepted clinical or laboratory diagnostic techniques.

Here, an employee said he felt “cold, clammy, and weak.” His employer asked him to work the rest of the shift, which he did. That evening, the employer said he could not return to work until he had a negative COVID-19 test result. The next day, after taking the test, he told the employer that he was feeling better. Before he was able to get the results of the COVID-19 test, he was terminated because he had COVID-19 symptoms and could not provide a negative test result. The employee claimed he was discriminated against for having a perceived disability.

Ultimately, the court said that the perception of the employee’s illness did not rise to the level of a disability, noting the mild symptoms and lack of medical treatment. “Not every illness will constitute a disability under the LAD.” The court emphasized that this is a case-specific situation and that different circumstances may have a different result depending on the extent and severity of the illness.

Action Items

  1. Review potential terminations of employees with potentially disabling medical conditions with legal counsel.
  2. Subscribers can call our HR On-Call Hotline at (888) 378-2456 for further assistance.

Disclaimer: This document is designed to provide general information and guidance concerning employment-related issues. It is presented with the understanding that ManagEase is not engaged in rendering any legal opinions. If a legal opinion is needed, please contact the services of your own legal adviser. © 2023 ManagEase