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Medical Exams Required by Employers May Be Discriminatory


It is not uncommon for employers to require potential employees to submit to medical exams or health-related questionnaires. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), there are some important limitations with regard to what an employer can ask you and the requirements they can impose when it comes to medical conditions. A recent case in Alabama addressed this issue.

Employment Medical Exams and the ADA

Employers are limited in what they can ask employees about their medical conditions. There are also limitations on medical exams that can be imposed on employees or applicants. These limitations are established under the ADA. First, an employer cannot make such inquiries or require such exams until an applicant has been offered a position, even if it is conditional. After the offer has been made, employees can be asked about medical conditions or be required to undergo a medical exam, but everyone that falls into that particular job category must be subject to the same requirements. In other words, everyone has to be treated the same in this regard.

Rejecting Someone Because of a Medical Condition

In the event that an employer withdraws a job offer because of someone’s medical condition or disability, the employer must be able to show that the reason for doing so was “job-related and consistent with business necessity.” Employers are also required to show that they had a reasonable belief that the individual would be unable to perform the essential functions of the job because of the medical condition. This belief must be based on objective evidence.

Allegations against Dollar General

According to a recent lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the retailer Dolgencorp, LLC, which does business as Dollar General, allegedly violated the ADA when it rescinded job offers made to applicants after the results of the medical exams revealed certain disabilities. Even though the exams were conducted by independent healthcare providers, Dollar General instructed them on how to conduct the exams and provided the forms to be completed. As a result of the process, applicants were ranked as “Qualified,” “Not Qualified,” or “Referred to Primary Medical Doctor,” and only those applicants who were rated “Qualified” were actually hired.

Applicants Disqualified for Vision Problems

The lawsuit alleges that an applicant for a position at a Dollar General warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama disclosed at the medical screening that he had monocular vision, which is considered a qualifying disability under the ADA. The applicant was informed at the medical exam that he was required to have at least 20/50 vision in each eye or he would be rated “Disqualified.” As a result of that rating, the applicant was not hired.

The EEOC’s Position on Medical Inquiries

In the EEOC’s position, Dollar General was using “qualification standards or selection criteria that screen out or tend to screen out an individual with a disability or a class of individuals with disabilities,” which would be a violation of the ADA. In addition to the vision requirements, it was alleged that the company also denied employment to individuals with certain blood pressure readings and with high blood sugar readings. As a result, the company’s qualification standards exceeded the requirements to perform the essential functions of the jobs at issue and, instead, screened out individuals with disabilities based on those disabilities.

Possible Violations of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act

According to the allegations made in the lawsuit, Dollar General also inquired about the family medical history of its applicants which is prohibited by the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA). This Act prohibits employers from basing employment decisions on someone’s genetic information, which includes family medical history. For this reason, the questionnaires used in this case sought this information and was sued to deny employment in violation of GINA.

If you feel you have been the victim of discrimination or retaliation in the workplace, or if you have any other questions regarding your employment rights, please contact the experienced employment law attorneys at Michel | King . You can contact us either online or by calling us at (205) 265-1880. We are here to serve you!

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