Q&A: Checking Physical Abilities and Physical Exams

Q:   How can I determine whether or not a job applicant is capable of doing a physically demanding job without violating his or her rights? Can I require that applicants have physical exams prior to being hired to ensure that their health will not interfere with their job?

A:  As long as the physical requirements you put in place are legitimately related to the job duties and considered business necessities, you may ask a candidate whether or not he or she is capable of performing all of the job duties. While the Americans with Disabilities Act protects against discriminating against individuals with disabilities, it does not prohibit eliminating a candidate because he or she cannot physically meet the demands of the position, with or without reasonable accommodation.

You can require job applicants to take physical tests to determine their ability to perform job functions (such as lifting 50-pound boxes for a warehouse position), but you cannot require medical examinations or ask about medical conditions or disabilities prior to making a job offer.

After you have extended a conditional offer to a candidate, you are allowed to require a medical exam and ask medical questions, as long as the same is done for all new employees in the position. The results of the medical exam and the candidate’s responses to the questions must be kept confidential. The results may only be used as legitimate reason for withdrawing a conditional offer of employment if the information discovered makes clear that the candidate would be unable to meet the demands of the position, with or without reasonable accommodation.

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The information provided is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. The information above contains only a summary of the applicable legal provisions and does not purport to cover every aspect of any particular law, regulation or requirement. Depending on the specific facts of any situation, there may be additional or different requirements. This is to be used only as a guide and not as a definitive description of your compliance obligations.