The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is responsible for administering the federal equal employment opportunity laws, which prohibit employers from discriminating against their employees on the basis of race, age, gender, religion, national origin, disability or genetic information. Generally, employers cannot require their employees to disclose their personal medical records unless their requests fall within the federal government’s public policy exceptions.
According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Americans With Disabilities Act allows employers to require medical examinations or inquire about their employees’ disabilities after they initially hire them. The federal equal employment opportunity laws prohibit employers from asking job candidates questions about their medical conditions or disabilities. However, after they hire them, they may be able to request medical examinations that are job-related and necessary for their business needs.
An employer who insists upon additional records or documentation is engaging in illegal retaliatory conduct against a disabled employee if that employee has provided the employer with sufficient information proving the existence of a disability. An employer’s request of an employee’s medical records must be motivated by a good-faith belief the employee failed to prove the existence of a disability necessitating reasonable accommodations.
An employer can request medical information if the existence of a medical condition or disease is likely to cause a direct medical threat to the public. An employer’s request must be based on a legitimate public policy concern, and the employee must have frequent and direct contact with other individuals. Additionally, employers may be able to request specific certification of the existence of a medical condition or need if an employee requests an extended leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act. Since the federal leave law limits job protection and continuing health benefits, if provided, to employees with serious medical conditions, employers can require them to submit adequate proof of their conditions.
If an employer has a reasonable basis to request medical records from a disabled employee, the review is limited to the information necessary to prove the existence of a medical or physical disability, and does not require an employee to disclose his entire medical history. In 2000, then-President Clinton passed an order prohibiting executive branch employers from requiring their employees or job applicants to participate in mandatory genetic testing. After former President Clinton signed the order, many states passed legislation prohibiting their employers from ordering genetic tests or using genetic testing information to make employment decisions.
Since state laws can frequently change, do not use this information as a substitute for legal advice. Seek advice through an attorney licensed to practice law in your state.