When you interview for a job, under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) an employer is not supposed to ask verbal or written questions that would tend to expose an impairment or disability. The only questions they can ask is whether you can perform the essential functions of the job, if they ask these questions of all applicants. However, they can offer you a job conditioned on you passing a physical, if all other applicants in the same job category are subjected to such an examination regardless of disability. If the medical examination screens out the disabled, then the employer must demonstrate that the examination is job related and consistent with business necessity. If the individual passes the exam then they must be hired.
After you are hired and thereafter, under the ADA, an employer may require you to take a medical examination or inquiry that is job related and consistent with business necessity. Supervisors and managers may be informed regarding necessary restrictions on work or duties of an employee and any necessary accommodations to allow the person to perform the essential functions of the job. Information collected from the examinations must be maintained in separate files from the employee’s general personnel files.
Employers can require an employee to undergo a medical fitness exam prior to returning to work from an illness or injury that is linked to a physical ability which might impact the employees ability to perform the functions of the job safely. However, the inquiry into a medical condition, without a basis that it could impact the performance of the specific job involved, is against the law. The exam is limited to the relevant condition for which the employee was off work.
Under the FMLA, the employer can require your medical provider to review a list of the essential functions of your job and certify that you are cleared to return to perform these functions. Your employer must inform you of your duty to secure a return to work certification when you take medical leave under the FMLA. This requirement can be satisfied by stating it in the employee handbook. Failure to obtain the certification can shield the employer from the duty to allow you to return to work under the FMLA. You can’t just blame it on the doctor for not sending the certification. Ultimately, it is your responsibility to obtain the certification from the doctor. So, in this circumstance the doctor can get you fired and just blaming the doctor still gets you fired.
Under the FMLA, the company cannot require you to get another opinion or use another doctor. The company is stuck with your doctor’s medical certification. However, after they let you return to work, under the ADA, the company can require another medical exam if they have reasonable legitimate safety concerns as to your ability to perform the job.
Under the FMLA, an employer cannot require a fitness for duty certification after each instance of intermittent leave. The regulations states, “If an employer is concerned that an employee’s intermittent or reduced-schedule leave, that occurs more often than once in a 30-day period, presents safety concerns, the employer may require the employee, once returned to work from FMLA leave, to submit to a medical exam as long as the exam is job-related and consistent with business necessity as required by the ADA…”.