Essential Job Functions, Disabling Conditions and the Americans with Disabilities Act

Posted on Feb 21, 2013 in Local Government

Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of disability.  Under the law and the regulations developed by the U.S. Department of Justice, Title I prohibits employers from requiring medical examinations or making disability-related inquiries of employees unless such examinations or inquiries are job-related and consistent with business necessity.

This means that when an employee may be unable to work because of a medical condition or an injury, the employer is entitled only to the medical information necessary to determine whether the employee can perform the essential functions of his or her job with or without reasonable accommodations and without posing a direct safety threat. Accordingly, in most situations, an employer or an employer’s medical advisor cannot require the employee to disclose his or her entire medical history because those records are likely to contain information that is not related to whether the employee can perform the essential functions of the job.  In addition, any medical information that the employer obtains must be treated as confidential, including that related to a workers’ compensation or occupational injury claim, and can be disclosed only under limited circumstances.

Medical examinations and medical inquiries that are not job related and consistent with business necessity or unrelated to the employee’s fitness to perform the essential functions are therefore prohibited. Moreover, if the examinations are improperly timed, such as during the time an employee is still undergoing treatment or far beyond the time of an injury or medical event, unless there is an indication that the employee cannot perform the essential functions, such inquiries are unlawful.

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