The American with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) is a federal law that prohibits employers from discriminating against individuals with disabilities. It also happens to be one of the most challenging employment discrimination laws that employers must follow.
The reason as to why it may be difficult for employers to comply with is because as an employer, you want to make sure that a prospective employee can perform all the necessary functions of a job. At the same time, however, you also do not want to risk violating the law by discriminating against persons who are part of a protective class (i.e., job applicants and employees).
An employer may be in violation of the ADA when they ask or require their employees and job applicants to do something that is not permitted by the law.
What Does the ADA Say about Medical Exams?
Under the ADA, an employer can only compel an employee to undergo a medical exam when it is related to job performance and consistent with a “business necessity.” The medical exam must meet both of these requirements; having only one of the two will not be sufficient to satisfy the ADA guidelines. Thus, it is important to keep in mind that “job-related” and “business necessity” are two separate requirements.
The ADA also provides certain limitations for when an employer may require their employees to get a medical exam. The ADA defines the term “medical exam” as any test or procedure that is intended to gather information about the physical health and mental well-being of a job applicant or employee.
For instance, a psychological test that is used to determine 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, in order for a medical exam to be job related it must actually measure a person’s ability to perform their particular job. As such, if a medical exam is used to screen out individuals who have a disability, that test can only be used if it assesses the person’s ability to perform the job.
Ultimately, an employer is usually not allowed to subject their employees or job candidates to take a medical exam unless that medical exam has some bearing on their ability to do the job.
The medical exam must also be consistent with the definition of a “business necessity.” Basically, what this means is that the medical exam must relate to the essential functions of the job. An essential function is any aspect of the job that is required to be performed.
Additionally, this specific requirement applies to any tasks relating to the job. In other words, so long as the medical exam is somehow connected to the ability to perform some part of the job, it will satisfy the business necessity requirement. Thus, an obligatory medical exam or an employer’s request for one will not violate the terms of the ADA in this instance.
Also, if an employee has a disability that prevents them from performing some insignificant or minor job-related duty, then the ADA mandates that their employer checks to confirm that they can perform the majority of the required job functions.
For example, if a person is a cashier at a grocery store, the essential function of their job would be to ring customers up and help them bag their items. As such, any medical exam that a grocery employer requires would have to be related to how an employee performs those tasks in order to be consistent with a business necessity.
Are Tests Usually Considered Medical Exams?
There are some tests that are commonly held to be medical exams. These exams may include:
- Vision and Hearing Tests: Medical evaluations involving hearing or vision tests are usually considered to be medical exams. In addition, if a hearing or vision specialist makes an observation regarding the conditions of a person’s hearing or vision capabilities, then this will also qualify as a medical exam.
- Psychological Exams: If a psychological exam is given and the results of the exam would likely lead to a diagnosis of a mental disorder or impairment, then the exam will count as a medical exam. By contrast, if the exam only measures personality traits or characteristics, then it will not be considered a medical exam.
Do I Need to Have a Disability in Order to Be Protected by the ADA?
Generally speaking, the ADA was originally passed in order to protect persons who have a disability or those perceived to have a disability. However, when it comes to the issue of medical exams or employer requests to take a medical exam, then the ADA is meant to apply to everyone.
Therefore, if an employer requires an employee to submit to a medical exam, then the employee 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.
Do I Need to Hire a Lawyer for Help with ADA Medical Exam Issues?
If you believe that you have been or will be asked to receive an unlawful medical exam, it may be in your best interest to contact a local employment lawyer 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, then your lawyer can also help you file a lawsuit, prepare your case, and provide representation on your behalf in court.
Alternatively, if your employer’s request for a medical exam does not violate your rights under the ADA, your lawyer may be able to recommend other options that could potentially allow you to avoid having to go through the process.