Medical Examinations under ADA

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Prior to the passage of the ADA, employers sometimes used medical information to exclude applicants from jobs.  Sometimes employers used medical information to discriminate against disabled individuals.  The ADA was passed to protect the right of disabled applicants and employees to be judged on merit alone but also to protect the right of employers to ensure job tasks are performed correctly and efficiently.

If an applicant for a job is disabled, an employer may be tempted to ask the applicant to participate in a medical examination.  Employers are prohibited from asking any disability related questions or requiring a medical examination prior to making a job offer even if the questions relate to the job.  29 C.F.R. § 1630.13 (a). Under the ADA, an employer may not ask on a job application or in an interview whether or not the applicant is disabled.  Suggested interview topics include education, training, and skills needed for the position. An employer may ask the applicant if he/she can perform specific job functions as long as the questions are not phrased in terms of a disability.  You can also ask an applicant to describe or demonstrate how, with or without reasonable accommodation, they would perform a job function.  42 U.S.C. § 12112(d)(2).

Do not ask about any physical or mental disability or how the person was disabled, any medication used by the applicant, or the applicant's worker's compensation history.

Job offers can be conditioned upon a physical examination, but only if such an examination is required of all applicants for similar jobs, and only if it is job related and consistent with the employer's business needs. 42 U.S.C. §12112(d)(3). After an applicant is hired, all required medical examinations must be job related. 42 U.S.C. §12112(d)(4)(A). The employer must require medical evaluations of all new employees in the same job category.  If an applicant is not hired because of a disability found during the medical evaluation, the employer must show that the reasons for not hiring the person are job related and necessary and that there is no reasonable accommodation applicable to the situation. Voluntary health screenings and medical examinations that are part of an employee health program are acceptable.  42 U.S.C. § 12112(d)(4)(B). The results of all medical examinations are confidential.

Adhering to these ADA requirements should prevent an employer from basing a hiring decision on assumptions about a disability.