The ADA prohibits medical inquiries or medical examinations before making a conditional job offer to an applicant. This prohibition is necessary because the results of such inquiries and examinations frequently are used to exclude people with disabilities from jobs they are able to perform.
Some employers have medical policies or rely on doctors' medical assessments that overestimate the impact of a particular condition on a particular individual, and/or underestimate the ability of an individual to cope with his or her condition. Medical policies that focus on disability, rather than the ability of a particular person, frequently will be discriminatory under the ADA.
For example: A policy that prohibits employment of any individual who has epilepsy, diabetes or a heart condition from a certain type of job, and which does not consider the ability of a particular individual, in most cases would violate the ADA. (See Chapter IV .)
Many employers currently use a pre-employment medical questionnaire, a medical history, or a pre-employment medical examination as one step in a several-step selection process. Where this is so, an individual who has a "hidden" disability such as diabetes, epilepsy, heart disease, cancer, or mental illness, and who is rejected for a job, frequently does not know whether the reason for rejection was information revealed by the medical exam or inquiry (which may not have any relation to this person's ability to do the job), or whether the rejection was based on some other aspect of the selection process.
A history of such rejections has discouraged many people with disabilities from applying for jobs, because of fear that they will automatically be rejected when their disability is revealed by a medical examination. The ADA is designed to remove this barrier to employment.