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When does a medical exam constitute disability discrimination?

Sometimes, whether it is during a job interview, after a job offer or during the course of employment, an employer in Minnesota may request that an employee undergo a medical exam. However, there are a number of circumstances in which requesting a medical exam could constitute disability discrimination.

For example, the law limits what medical exams can be undergone during the application and interview process when hiring an individual with a disability. An employer is not permitted to question the applicant regarding the applicant's medical condition or health. In addition, an employer cannot ask an applicant if he or she is disabled, even if the disability is obvious. Moreover, an employer cannot require an applicant to undergo a medical exam prior to offering the applicant the job. However, an employer is allowed to ask applicants if they believe they will be able to execute their job duties, with or without being provided with a reasonable accommodation.

Employers are also limited with regards to requesting a medical exam after offering an individual the job. At this stage, the employer is allowed to make the job offer conditional based on the applicant's ability to pass a medical exam, and the employer is allowed to ask the applicant certain medical questions. However, these questions and exams must be requested of all new employees for that particular job, not just those who have a disability.

Finally, employers are limited with regards to requesting a medical exam once the applicant is hired. After being hired, employers in general can only require a medical exam or ask certain questions regarding the employee's medical condition if the employer needs such documentation in order to fulfill the need to provide a reasonable accommodation for the employee or if the employer believes that, due to a medical condition, the employee is unable to safely or successfully execute his or her job duties.

As you can see, there are legal limits that employers must adhere to during the employment process with regards to medical exams and those with disabilities. Individuals should not be discriminated against during the hiring process or after being hired simply because they are disabled. Fortunately, under the law there are steps employees can take to rectify such situations.

Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, "Disability Discrimination," accessed July 25, 2016

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