Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (the “ADA”) restricts an employer’s ability to make disability-related inquiries or require medical examinations. The laws and rules depend on the stage of the relationship: pre-offer, post-offer but pre-employment, and during employment. This post relates to medical inquiries and examinations of an employee during employment.
Certainly, no one wants to be subject to intrusive and unnecessary medical exams and inquiries. Indeed, it may lead to an employer viewing an employee in a negative light based on preconceived notions, bias, and unfounded fears. The legislature and judicial system have taken this into account when constructing and interpreting these laws. After employment, an employer may make disability-related inquiries and require medical examinations only if they are job-related and consistent with business necessity. Furthermore, the ADA requires that employers keep medical information obtained from a disability-related inquiry or medical examination, as well as any medical information voluntarily disclosed by an employee, as a confidential. Employers may share this medical information only in limited circumstances with supervisors and managers.
What is considered “job related and consistent with business necessity”?
Generally, a disability-related inquiry or medical examination of an employee may be “job-related and consistent with business necessity” when an employer “has a reasonable belief, based on objective evidence, that: (1) an employee’s ability to perform essential job functions will be impaired by a medical condition; or (2) an employee will pose a direct threat due to a medical condition.” Exams and inquiries in response to a request for reasonable accommodation when the disability or need for accommodation is unknown may be job-related and consistent with business necessity. Additionally, periodic examinations under specific circumstances may be job-related and consistent with business necessity.
What is the Scope of the lawful medical exams and inquiries?
Even if an employer can demonstrate a lawful reason for requesting a medical inquiry or exam, it does not not entitled your employer to all your medical records. Instead, an employer can only obtain information necessary to determine if the employee is capable of performing the essential functions of his/her job. If the employee requests an accommodation, the employer can require sufficient documentation to establish the employee suffers from a disability under the ADA and how the accommodation will allow the employee to perform the essential functions of his/her job. Employers are not entitled to unrelated medical records.
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