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TOP TIP – Be Careful When Requiring Medical Examinations.

December 26, 2013

Requiring an employee to undergo a medical examination can create liability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) under certain circumstances.  Thus, a court allowed an ADA discrimination claim to go forward where the company asked an employee to submit to a neurological examination even though the company had legitimately determined that the employee was performing poorly.

This case, Whitt v Baldwin County Mental Health Center, illustrates the frequent problem that an employer creates for itself when it asks about and wants an employee to seek treatment for a potential medical problem, ostensibly to determine the reasons for the employee’s concededly poor performance.  The better practice for employers is to focus on and hold the employee accountable for the performance issues, rather than delving into the reasons for those issues in the first instance. 

If the employee raises her medical condition as a basis for the poor performance, it would be appropriate for the employer then to seek additional information about the employee’s medical limitations and possible accommodations.