When it comes to medical exams and inquiries, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) lays out some pretty specific rules.
The rules are different for applicants than they are for current employees.
And even among applicants, the rules aren’t the same.
ADA-covered employers who proceed without knowledge of these rules are flying blind – and asking for trouble.
A Louisiana car dealer found that trouble. It will pay $100,000 and take other steps to resolve an allegation that it subjected an employee to unlawful inquiries and an unlawful medical exam.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) sued New Orleans car dealer Hone of Covington. It said the dealer discharged a sales representative after subjecting her to unlawful inquiries and an unlawful medical exam.
The sales rep told the employer when she was hired that she has ADHD and was legally taking medication to treat it.
You Can’t Do That
The employer took a very wrong turn by telling her to stop taking the medication and then ordering her to take a drug test, the agency alleged. That alleged conduct clearly violated the ADA, it said.
To end the suit, the employer will pay $100,000. It will also conduct relevant training and revise its policies.
Here’s a quick breakdown of ADA rules on medical exams and inquiries.
Before making an offer, employers may not make any disability-related inquiries or require a medical examination. Period. It’s as simple as that.
If an employer makes a conditional job offer but the applicant has not started working, the light turns from red to green. Employers can make disability-related inquiries and require medical exams. But there are important limitations. First, all entering employees in the same job category must be subjected to the same inquiries/exams. And if an applicant is screened out because of a disability, it’s on the employer to show the exclusionary criteria is job-related and consistent with business necessity.
The third and final rule tier applies to current employees. The rule: No medical exams or inquiries unless they are both job-related and consistent with business necessity.
What’s “job-related and consistent with business necessity”?
Employers meet the standard when they reasonably believe that an employee’s medical condition impairs their ability to do the job or poses a direct threat. The belief has to be based on solid, objective information.
The employer’s alleged conduct in this case fell far short of meeting that standard. And ordering an employee to stop taking medication that a healthcare provider has legally prescribed? That’s a next-level no-no.
This case also holds lessons about the ADA rules regarding drug testing, which can get a bit tricky.
Under the ADA, testing for the illegal use of drugs is not a medical exam. That means employers can subject both applicants and employees to such testing without violating the statute.
But the same is not true when it comes to drug testing like that required in this case. If an employee is legally taking a prescription drug, a drug test is a medical exam. And for current employees, it is barred by the ADA unless it is both job-related and consistent with business necessity.