Employers’ Rights To Demand Employee Medical Examinations And Inquiries

It happens.  People get hurt or become ill.  Employers sometimes become concerned that the illness or injury will prevent the employee from fully doing the job.  So what employment law rights under the American With Disabilities Act do employees have in such situations?

Employers may insist that current employees undergo medical examinations or inquiries only to analyze whether an illness or injury prevents the employee from performing the essential functions of the job.  That right is not automatic — Employers must establish that the examination or inquiry is job-related and justified by business necessity.  Testing solely for the sake of testing is not legal.

Also illegal is testing that is designed to determine whether a person is disabled.  Even if the employer is allowed to conduct an examination or inquiry, that must go no farther than reviewing whether the employee’s physical or mental symptoms affect the employee’s ability to perform the essential functions of the job.  A medical examination or inquiry that goes deeper, and starts looking into the cause of the symptoms, i.e., the disability itself, is arguably unlawful and in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Employers can legally fire employees who refuse a lawful, justified request for a medical examination or inquiry.  So if your employer insists that you submit to a medical examination or inquiry, think carefully before refusing.  I recommend that, before deciding whether or not to refuse the employer’s request, employees seek additional information from the employer about job-relatedness and business necessity and how the examination or inquiry will be connected to performance of essential job functions.  Then, if the employee decides that the test is appropriate, further steps should be taken to ensure that the test is limited to the permitted inquiries and does not unduly infringe upon the employee’s privacy rights.

Here’s an important point — The law and rules concerning employee medical examinations and inquiries apply to all employees, not just employees who may have a disability.  Employers thus violate the law when they illegally demand a medical examination or inquiry of any employee, even if the employee is not disabled.  This is a rare instance in which the Americans With Disabilities Act applies across the board to all employees, disabled or nondisabled.

Disability discrimination cases require legal analysis of federal statutes, U.S. Department of Labor regulations, and court decisions.  I can help you with any employment law or labor law questions that you might have.  Please feel free to contact me for a free initial consultation about employment law or labor law.


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