The short answer to the question is "yes," there are protections. But, as always, how good those protections are, if they are good at all, depends on the factual circumstances particular to the situation. A general review might be helpful.
The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and its Kentucky state law counterpart, the Kentucky Civil Rights Act, which is found at KRS Chapter 344, provides three (3) types of protections against disability discrimination. One of those protections is for employees who are "regarded as" having a disability. This would apply to an employee who is "regarded as" having a disability but who does not.
An example from a real case recently decided by the federal Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers Kentucky, may be helpful. The case is Babb v. Maryville Anesthesiologists.
The employee, Babb, was a nurse anesthetist who had practiced anesthesiology. She had a degenerative retinal condition and concerns were raised by her employer, an anesthesiology practice group, about whether this would cause her problems doing her job. The practice group may have made up reasons to fire her, because they regarded her as a potential liability on account of the perceived vision issue; there's been no jury finding yet, so may have made up reasons is fair. Babb's claim, however, was that she was fired because the employer regarded her as having a disability - a vision problem.
The court ruled that Babb could make out her claim by showing the following:
if the [employee] establishes that he or she has been subjected to an action prohibited under this chapter because of an actual or perceived physical or mental impairment whether or not the impairment limits or is perceived to limit a major life activity.
This protection doesn't apply, the court pointed out, to "impairments that are transitory and minor."
Lexington, Kentucky ADA lawyer Robert Abell represents employees and individuals in disability discrimination cases in state and federal courts throughout Kentucky; contact him at 859-254-7076.