If your company uses post-offer medical questionnaires for new hires, listen up. How you use the form and when you use it matters to the EEOC. Additionally, make sure your company knows how to use the medical information and discuss results with the employee. This month an Alabama contractor that used post-offer medical questionnaires and subsequent physical examinations to terminate several employees with past histories of injuries & surgeries was sued by the federal agency. The EEOC lawsuit states that medical forms and exams revealed that several employees had disabilities, and the company doctor’s concluded (after a fitness for duty exam) that the employee was not able to perform their job duties. The problem for Zachry Construction, a San Antonio-based construction and industrial contractor, was that these employees had already been working in their positions and did not have any problems performing their duties.
Reginald White applied for a Boilermaker position at the Chevron refinery and when he was hired, Zachry required him to complete a medical questionnaire. One month after he began work, the company required White to undergo a fitness-for-duty examination. After a brief exam and review of White’s medical information, the examining physician found White unable to perform his job duties, even though he had satisfactorily performed those duties for the past month. The company fired White the next day.
In May 2016, the company required Jasper Johnson to undergo a fitness-for-duty examination. During the examination, Zachry’s physician learned of a past surgery and lingering neck pain. The company refused to allow Johnson to return to work and fired him. Also, Zachry hired Isaacson as a skilled laborer in July 2015. and he had undergone a past surgery on his right shoulder and had multiple right shoulder dislocations post-surgery. Almost one year later, the company required Isaacson to undergo a fitness-for-duty examination. During the exam, Zachry’s physician learned of Isaacson’s past surgery and multiple shoulder dislocations. The company refused to allow Isaacson to return to work and then terminated him.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects employees and job applicants from discrimination because of their disabilities. If an employee requires a reasonable accommodation, an employer must engage in a good-faith interactive process with the employee to determine if he or she can perform the essential functions of the job with or without a reasonable accommodation. If a post-offer medical questionnaire and/or physical examination is used, the inquiry should be at the time of hire, or when evidence arises that question an employee’s ability to perform the essential functions of the job. Just as important to the employer is the requirement to have an individualized accommodation discussion with the employee – and not just terminate after the doctor’s opinion.
The ADA requires an interactive discussion about the limitations and possible accommodations before the employer can conclude that the employee cannot perform a job successfully or safely because of a medical condition. The law requires an employer to provide reasonable accommodation to an employee or job applicant with a disability unless doing so would cause significant difficulty or expense for the employer.