The ADA does not prevent employers from obtaining medical and related information necessary to evaluate the ability of applicants and employees to perform essential job functions, or to promote health and safety on the job. However, to protect individuals with disabilities from actions based on such information that are not job-related and consistent with business necessity, including protection of health and safety, the ADA imposes specific and differing obligations on the employer at three stages of the employment process:
1. Before making a job offer, an employer may not make any medical inquiry or conduct any medical examination.
2. After making a conditional job offer, before a person starts work, an employer may make unrestricted medical inquiries, but may not refuse to hire an individual with a disability based on results of such inquiries, unless the reason for rejection is job-related and justified by business necessity.
3. After employment, any medical examination or inquiry required of an employee must be job-related and justified by business necessity. Exceptions are voluntary examinations conducted as part of employee health programs and examinations required by other federal laws.
Under the ADA, "medical" documentation concerning the qualifications of an individual with a disability, or whether this individual constitutes a "direct threat" to health and safety, does not mean only information from medical doctors. It may be necessary to obtain information from other sources, such as rehabilitation experts, occupational or physical therapists, psychologists, and others knowledgeable about the individual and the disability concerned. It also may be more relevant to look at the individual's previous work history in making such determinations than to rely on an examination or tests by a physician.
The basic requirements regarding actions based on medical information and inquiries have been set out in Chapter IV. As emphasized there, such actions taken because of a disability must be job-related and consistent with business necessity. When an individual is rejected as a "direct threat" to health and safety:
This chapter discusses in more detail the content and manner of medical examinations and inquiries that may be made, and the documentation that may be required (1) before employment and (2) after employment.