The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a significant piece of civil rights legislation that prohibits discrimination based on disability. One area the ADA specifically addresses is the subject of medical exams in the employment context. Under the ADA, employers are restricted in when and how they can require a medical exam of applicants and employees.
Americans with Disabilities Act Required Medical Exams
How Can I Tell Whether Something Is a Medical Exam?
Determining whether a test is considered a medical exam under the ADA is essential because medical exams are subject to specific regulations. Generally, any procedure or test that seeks information about an individual’s physical or mental impairments or health constitutes a medical examination.
However, tests that measure an employee’s ability to perform a task or gauge health and safety risks in non-medical terms typically aren’t considered medical exams.
What Are Some Common Examples of Tests That Aren’t Medical Exams?
Many tests that employers might require aren’t medical exams under the ADA’s definition.
Physical Agility or Fitness Tests
Physical agility or fitness tests are commonly used by employers, especially in jobs where physical strength, endurance, or specific physical skills are critical. Such tests could include timed runs, lifting weights, or other task-related challenges.
The primary aim of these tests is to evaluate an employee’s or applicant’s ability to safely and effectively perform specific job-related tasks. While these tests assess an individual’s physical capabilities, they don’t delve into the person’s general health or medical conditions.
Consequently, under the ADA, these are not considered medical exams. However, employers must ensure that these tests are not discriminatory and are consistent with job necessity.
Psychological Tests Not Designed to Identify a Mental Disorder or Impairment
In the realm of employment, psychological tests can be tools for understanding an individual’s personality, aptitude, intelligence, or interests. If these tests are specifically designed to not identify a mental disorder or impairment, they are not considered medical exams under the ADA.
For example, a test that gauges an individual’s suitability for team-based work or their leadership tendencies would likely fall into this category. Employers must remain cautious, ensuring that such tests do not inadvertently delve into medical inquiries, as it would then be subject to ADA restrictions.
Drug Tests Under the ADA
Interestingly, drug tests are an exception when it comes to the ADA’s definition of medical exams. The ADA specifically excludes tests for the illegal use of drugs from its definition of a medical examination. This means employers are generally free to conduct drug tests without violating the ADA.
However, this doesn’t mean that employers have unrestricted freedom in this arena. Drug tests may still be subject to other federal or state laws, and the results of a drug test can’t be used to discriminate against an individual based on a protected disability. For instance, if the individual is taking medication for a disability.
What Are Tests That Are Usually Considered Medical Exams?
Examples of tests that typically fall under the ADA’s definition of medical exams include the following.
Blood Pressure Screening or Cholesterol Testing
Blood pressure screening and cholesterol testing are diagnostic procedures commonly used to identify and monitor cardiovascular health. Elevated blood pressure or cholesterol levels can be indicative of potential health risks, including heart disease or stroke.
In the employment context, such screenings might be used to assess the general health of an employee, particularly for jobs that require significant physical exertion or stress. However, under the ADA, these tests are considered medical examinations. Thus, employers must be cautious about when and how they implement these screenings to ensure they don’t violate an employee’s rights under the ADA.
Range-of-motion tests are designed to measure the flexibility and mobility of specific joints in the body. They can also assess muscle strength and motor function. These tests can be used to determine an individual’s physical capability, especially in occupations that demand certain physical requirements.
For example, jobs that require lifting, repetitive movements, or precise motor skills might use these tests as part of their assessment process. However, because these tests can potentially reveal the presence of musculoskeletal disorders or other medical conditions, they are deemed medical exams under the ADA. Employers need to ensure they have a legitimate job-related reason for requiring such tests.
Psychological Tests Designed to Identify a Mental Disorder or Impairment
Unlike psychological tests that assess personality or aptitude, tests designed to identify a mental disorder or impairment delve into an individual’s mental health. Such tests might diagnose conditions like depression, anxiety disorders, or other psychological challenges.
In an employment setting, these tests are highly sensitive and are subject to the ADA’s stringent rules. They are considered medical exams and can only be conducted under specific circumstances. This ensures that employees and applicants are not discriminated against based on their mental health.
Pulmonary Function Tests
Pulmonary function tests are procedures that assess the functionality of the lungs. They can measure lung volume, capacity, rates of flow, and gas exchange. These tests are vital in diagnosing and monitoring diseases like asthma, bronchitis, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
If an employer were to require such a test, it would be under the presumption that respiratory function is integral to the performance of the job. However, given that these tests can disclose the presence of a medical condition, they are classified as medical examinations under the ADA.
As with other medical exams, employers must have a valid, job-related reason to require a pulmonary function test and ensure they are not used to discriminate against employees or applicants unlawfully.
Do I Need to Have a Disability in Order to Be Protected?
Under the ADA, you don’t necessarily need to have a disability to be protected from improper medical examinations or inquiries. The ADA prohibits employers from requiring medical exams unless they are job-related and consistent with business necessity. It also prevents employers from making disability-related inquiries unless they are relevant to the job in question.
An employer could require a medical exam or make an inquiry in violation of the ADA. If so, an individual might be able to bring a lawsuit against the employer for discrimination, even if they don’t have a disability.
If an employer violates the ADA by improperly requiring a medical exam or making prohibited inquiries, an individual can file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). After filing, the EEOC investigates the claim. If discrimination is found, they’ll try to resolve the issue through mediation. If unresolved, the individual may receive a “right to sue” letter, allowing them to pursue legal action against the employer in court.
If you believe your rights under disability laws like the ADA have been violated, it can be beneficial to speak with an experienced attorney. An employment lawyer can provide guidance on whether a medical exam is permissible and what steps to take if your rights are infringed upon.
Do I Need a Lawyer?
Are you concerned about potential violations of the ADA or other employment-related issues? It’s best to navigate the intricate realm of employment law with a skilled professional at your side.
Through LegalMatch, you can effortlessly connect with a knowledgeable ADA lawyer who can guide you every step of the way. Find the right lawyer for your case with LegalMatch today.
Need a Discrimination Lawyer in your Area?
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia