Q & A – Can I request medical information from applicants and employees?

Q: Can I request medical information from applicants and employees?

A: The employer’s ability to ask for medical information or conduct medical examinations depends on which stage of the employment process is at issue.  In the applicant stage, employers are strictly prohibited from conducting medical examinations or asking individuals to provide medical information. Employers cannot ask applicants questions that could reasonably lead to the disclosure of medical information, such as how often the applicant was sick in the previous job.  However, applicants who have obvious disabilities can be asked to demonstrate how they would perform essential job function.  Before making an offer of employment, employers cannot ask disability-related questions or require medical examinations. A “disability-related question” is one that is “likely to elicit information about a disability.”  Employers may ask applicants about current illegal drug use as that is not protected by the ADA, but should avoid questions about past use or alcohol or drug addiction.  Applicants can be required to take a drug test before an offer of employment is made.  Drug tests are not considered medical examinations.

After making an offer, but before the employee begins work, employers can make medical inquiries and require medical examinations as long as this is done for all applicants in the job category.  A best practice is for employers to ask only for information that is job-related.
After an employee is hired, employers can conduct medical examinations or make medical inquiries that are job-related and consistent with business necessity.  This means that the inquiries and examinations address whether the individual has a disability, how the disability impacts the individual’s ability to perform essential job functions, and what accommodations may be appropriate.