Business Necessity Under the ADA

Where You Need a Lawyer:

(This may not be the same place you live)

At No Cost! 

 What Is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) is a federal regulation that forbids employers from discriminating against people with disabilities. It also happens to be one of the most problematic employment discrimination laws employers must follow.

It may be difficult for employers to comply with because, as an employer, you want to make sure that a prospective worker can complete all the necessary functions of a job. At the same time, however, you also do not want to jeopardize violating the law by discriminating against persons who are part of a protective class (i.e., job applicants and employees).

An employer may violate the ADA when they ask or require their workers and job applicants to do something not authorized by the law.

What Does the ADA Say About Medical Exams?

Under the ADA, an employer can only force an employee to undergo a medical exam related to job performance and uniform with a “business necessity.” The medical exam must meet both of these conditions; having only one of the two will not be adequate to fulfill the ADA policies. Thus, it is essential to remember that “job-related” and “business necessity” are two distinct prerequisites.

The ADA also provides specific regulations for when employers may direct their employees to get a medical exam. The ADA defines the term “medical exam” as any test or procedure intended to gather data about a job applicant or employee’s physical health and mental well-being.

For example, a psychological test used to resolve whether or not an individual has a mental disorder will be considered a medical exam.

How Can a Medical Exam be Job Related?

According to the ADA, for a medical exam to be job-related, it must estimate a person’s capacity to perform their respective job. As such, if a medical exam is used to filter out people who have a disability, that test can only be used if it evaluates the individual’s capacity to perform the job.

Ultimately, an employer is usually not permitted to subject their workers or job candidates to a medical exam unless that exam has some bearing on their ability to do the job.

The medical exam must also be compatible with the purpose of a “business necessity.” This means that the medical exam must relate to the job’s essential functions. An essential function is any aspect of the job required to be performed.

Further, this specific requirement applies to any assignments relating to the job. In other words, so long as the medical exam is somehow related to the capacity to perform some part of the job, it will fulfill the business necessity condition. Thus, an obligatory medical exam or an employer’s request for one will not break the terms of the ADA in this instance.

Also, suppose an employee has a disability that prevents them from performing insignificant or minor job-related duties. In that case, the ADA mandates that their employer checks to confirm that they can perform most of the required job functions.

For instance, if a person is a cashier at a grocery store, the basic role of their job would be to ring customers up and help them bag their things. As such, any medical exam that a grocery employer mandates would have to be related to how an employee performs those tasks to be consistent with a business necessity.

Are Tests Usually Considered Medical Exams?

Some tests are normally held to be medical exams. These exams may include:

  • Vision and Hearing Tests: Medical evaluations involving hearing or vision tests are usually considered medical exams. In addition, if a hearing or vision specialist observes the conditions of a person’s hearing or vision capabilities, this will also qualify as a medical exam.
  • Psychological Exams: If a psychological exam is given and the exam results would presumably lead to a diagnosis of a mental disorder or impairment, the exam will count as a medical exam. By contrast, if the exam only gauges personality traits or characteristics, it will not be considered a medical exam.

Do I Need to Have a Disability to Be Protected by the ADA?

Generally speaking, the ADA was initially passed to protect persons with a disability or those perceived to have a disability. However, when it comes to medical exams or employer requests to take a medical exam, the ADA is meant to apply to everyone.

Therefore, if an employer requires an employee to submit to a medical exam, the worker will most likely be able to bring an action against the employer for discrimination. In this case, such a request will be considered a violation of the ADA regardless of whether the employee has a disability or not.

What Are the Practical Implications of the Business Necessity Under the ADA?

On August 19, 2014, in Kroll v. White Lake Ambulance Authority, the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed summary judgment in favor of the employer in an ADA case, holding that a genuine issue of fact exists concerning whether the counseling mandated by an employer was “job-related and consistent with business necessity.” The Sixth Circuit held that an employer that demands a medical test oversteps the ADA unless the test is job-related and consistent with business necessity under the ADA.

An employer ordering such an examination cannot do so based on ethical or emotional elements. It must use medical knowledge or have sufficient evidence to determine that an individual is a threat to themselves or others or that the employee’s ability to perform essential job functions is impaired.

One or two isolated happenings do not deliver enough proof to satisfactorily conclude that either of these has transpired without some remaining conflict of material fact. Employers should evaluate their true reason for ordering medical tests to ensure that they are legally achievable and not a consequence of ethical or emotional judgment.

Do I Need to Employ a Lawyer to Help with ADA Medical Exam Issues?

Suppose you believe that you have been or will be asked to receive an unlawful medical exam. In that case, it may be in your best interest to contact local discrimination lawyers for further legal advice.

An experienced employment lawyer will be able to determine whether being forced to undergo a medical exam violates your rights under the ADA. If it does, your lawyer can also help you file a lawsuit, prepare your case, and provide representation on your behalf in court.

Alternatively, suppose your employer’s request for a medical exam does not violate your rights under the ADA. In that case, your lawyer may be able to recommend other options that could potentially allow you to avoid having to go through the process.

There is no fee to schedule a consultation with one of the many lawyers in your area found on LegalMatch’s attorney database. One of the lawyers on LegalMatch can help you resolve your ADA employment-related legal issue. Use LegalMatch to schedule a confidential consultation with a lawyer near you today and put your employment-related legal problems to rest. Do not try to fight a legal battle against your employer by yourself. Use LegalMatch to ensure you get the best outcome for your case.


16 people have successfully posted their cases

Find a Lawyer