Medical and physical examinations may, under certain circumstances, be an invasion of privacy prohibited by the California Constitution. However, California employers may be allowed to require employees to undergo routine medical or physical examinations, provided the examinations have a reasonable relationship to the work the employee or applicant will be performing. However, if a medical or physical examination is not job related and has an adverse impact on a particular protected class, such as women, the employer may face liability for discrimination. In one case, the courts held that selective testing of African Americans for Sickle Cell Anemia and women for pregnancy, was discrimination.
If an employee undergoes a physical or medical examination, and it is determined that an employee suffers from a disability, then the employee may have the protection of the Americans with Disabilities Act. In such cases, refusing to hire the applicant or terminating the employee could result in discrimination.
The Americans with Disabilities Act generally bars employers with 15 or more employees, from requiring medical examinations to determine the existence or extent of a disability. However an exception exists with regard to “business necessity.” If an employee’s or applicant’s health problems or disability would have a substantial and injurious impact on an employee’s job performance, or ability to perform the tasks without being a threat to themselves or others, then some employers may be able to require the employee to undergo examinations to determine his ability to work. This might be allowed, even though the examination might disclose whether the employee is disabled or the extent of any disability.
Physical examinations are generally allowed only after a job offer has been made, and then only if all job applicants for the same job category are required to be examined, as opposed to only the disabled persons. The results of such an examination may be used to determine the applicant’s physical or mental ability to perform the job, as well as to determine whether or not the employer can make reasonable accommodations for the employee to perform the job. Any information obtained during a medical or physical examination must be maintained under the strictest confidence.
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