By Eric B. Meyer
Two big EEOC pet peeves right now are:
- Employers who discriminate in the hiring process; and,
- Employers who violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) based on misconceived notions about how an individual’s health could impact that person’s ability to perform essential job functions.
So, you’ve really got to be pushing your luck by betting the daily double and avoiding EEOC backlash.
Facts of the case
Last week, Florida-based company’s gamble didn’t pay off as a federal court granted summary judgment in favor of the EEOC (opinion here) based on allegations that the employer violated the ADA by withdrawing a job offer because of the plaintiff’s old back injury.
Here are the facts of the case (from the EEOC’s press release):
According to the EEOC’s suit, ATM made a provisional job offer to Michael Matanic as a process engineer, pending a health release. The company conducted a post-offer medical examination which revealed that Matanic had a successful back surgery six years prior for which he could not provide a medical release indicating he had no restrictions.
After ATM’s post-offer medical examination provider, Lakeside Occupational Medical Clinic, learned this, it refused to perform a back screen and complete Matanic’s physical examination. ATM, falsely regarding Matanic as disabled, withdrew the job offer and terminated his employment.
In the meantime, Matanic actually performed the job at ATM for two months while he attempted to obtain the requested medical release. At the time of his termination, Matanic was in good health and had a recent medical examination showing that he had no physical limitations on his ability to perform his job.”
Take care with an applicant’s medical history
Under the ADA, a “disability” is an impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a record of such an impairment, or being regarded as having such an impairment. Here, the court concluded that, by requiring the plaintiff to provide a medical release because of a prior back injury, the defendant regarded him as disabled.
Further, the ADA requires an individualized assessment of whether a disabled employee can perform the essential functions of the job.
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The defendant did not make this assessment. (Much like in this case, which is one my favorites when training employers). Instead, it relied upon “myths and fears” about the prior back injury in denying employment.
Employers need to be very careful when getting into an applicant or employee’s medical history. For more on medical-related inquiries and the ADA, check out this guidance from the EEOC.
This was originally published on Eric B. Meyer’s blog, The Employer Handbook.