What the law says about medical inquiries

What if your boss insisted that your doctor was crazy and demanded that you flush your prescriptions down the toilet?

That may sound far-fetched, but one fast-food worker is currently suing her employer over that very thing.

The woman, who suffers from bipolar disorder, claims that her boss told her that she didn’t need prescriptions, she just needed Jesus. Then her boss added that if the woman was going to follow her doctor’s advice, she could no longer work at the restaurant.

The woman decided to stick with her doctor. She got fired, and now she’s suing.

While this situation is, admittedly, over the top, it does raise some interesting questions about what your employer can ask about when it comes to health conditions.

Let’s delve into some of the most common questions people have about this topic.

Can my boss ask if I’m sick?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employers from asking questions that could force employees to disclose disabilities.

The law only allows employers to ask about serious health conditions under a few circumstances. Those are:

  1. If you’ve already disclosed that you have a medical condition and you are seeking a job accommodation under the ADA, or you are requesting medical leave. Then, employers are allowed to ask for documentation to verify the existence or severity of your health issue.
  2. If an employer suspects that you’re suffering from a condition that might cause you to be unable to perform your job, or might cause you to be unsafe on the job.

So if you look like you’re coming down with the flu, and your boss asks if you’re feeling OK, that’s generally within the realm of acceptable behavior as far as federal law is concerned. Your boss may have genuine concerns about your ability to complete your work that day.

However, it’s another story if a boss asks probing questions in order to determine if you’re pregnant, diabetic, or suffering from some kind of serious health condition.

Can my boss make me prove that I’m fit to work?

The answer to this question is similar to the previous one.

Generally, you cannot be made to take a medical exam or otherwise prove that you’re fit to work unless your employer has reason to believe that you’re a safety risk or has reason to believe that you can no longer perform the essential tasks involved with your job.

For example, an employer may be able to justify asking for a medical exam if you’re required to climb ladders but you have avoided doing so for some time.

However, employers may not require pregnant women to provide medical certification that it’s safe for them to work. Similarly, workers who have disclosed other medical conditions may not be required to prove that they’re able to continue working.

What health issues can employers ask about when I’m applying for a job?

When you’re applying for a job, employers may ask if you’re capable of doing the job. They may not, however, ask if you have any serious medical conditions, or if you’re disabled.

After an employer extends a conditional job offer, they may require you to take a medical exam to ensure that you can perform the tasks required of the job.

It’s important to note, though, that you may only be asked to take a medical exam if everyone who is applying for that position is required to pass a medical exam. Employers may not single out individuals whom they suspect might have health issues.

Can I be fired for taking prescription drugs?

You generally cannot be fired for taking legally prescribed medications.

The only exception might be if a side effect of a particular drug caused a safety issue.

Contact Us Now for a Free Consultation

If you’ve been forced to disclose a medical condition, or discriminated against because of one, it’s a good idea to speak to an attorney with experience fighting for workers’ rights.

Email us at murphy@phillyemploymentlawyer.com, or call (267) 273-1054 for a free consultation.