Pre-Employment Physical Exam Requirements

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If you're job hunting, you may be asked to pass a physical exam, either before an employer extends a job offer or during the interview process. Depending on the type of exam, the nature of the job, and other factors, it’s often legal for a prospective employer to ask candidates to take a physical exam. But there are conditions regarding what the employer can ask, what type of exam can be performed, and when an examination can take place.

Most of the rules pertaining to pre-employment physical exams are covered by the Americans With Disabilities Act. The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to private companies with fifteen or more employees. It also applies to state and local government employers, employment agencies, and labor organizations.

This legislation makes it illegal to discriminate against employees, or job seekers, based on disability. It also covers a number of other potential areas of discrimination, such as transportation, public accommodations, and access to state and local services.

Legal Guidelines

To protect job applicants against discrimination, the ADA prohibits requiring a medical exam prior to extending a job offer. However, employers are allowed to ask prospective employees to take a medical exam after a conditional job offer is made, as long as they require all applicants for the same job to undergo the same exam. Employers can also ask job applicants to describe, or demonstrate, how they would perform specific job functions prior to extending an offer.

Pre-employment examinations may include physical exams as well as health inquiries including drug and alcohol tests, psychological tests, and physical or mental health assessments.

Additionally, employees may be required to have physicals if health or fitness is a job requirement. For example, police officers or firefighters may be asked to demonstrate physical fitness necessary to perform the functions of their jobs.

Employer Requirements

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A physical examination can be required by a company for new hires if all other candidates for the same job category were also required to have an examination.

The results of the exam itself cannot discriminate against the worker, and his or her medical records and history must be kept confidential and separate from their other records. It is also expected that the person administering the assessment fully understands the expectations of the job in order to determine if the potential employee would be able to complete the duties required by the position.

Employers are also required to make “reasonable accommodation” for candidates with disabilities in order to enable them to be considered for a job opening. They cannot refuse to consider candidates with disabilities who require accommodation.

Drug and Alcohol Tests

Employers administer drug tests for a variety of reasons, including decreasing absenteeism and on-the-job accidents, improving productivity, and reducing liability for the company.

There are several types of drug tests that candidates for employment may be asked to take. These include urine drug screening, hair, drug or alcohol testing, saliva drug screening, and sweat drug screening.

Physical Ability Tests

Physical ability tests measure the physical ability of an applicant to perform a particular task or the strength of specific muscle groups, as well as strength and stamina in general.

Physical ability tests may be conducted for potential employees in the manual and physical labor sectors. Abilities such as stamina, flexibility, and strength are the abilities most commonly considered. For example, employers may ask job seekers to prove that they can lift a set amount of weight if doing so is part of the routine duties of that particular job.

Some parts of a physical ability test can include muscular tension and power, endurance, cardiovascular health, flexibility, balance, and mental fortitude under physical strain.

Physical ability tests are often the basis of many employment-based legal battles. Women, minorities, and the elderly are often subject to inequitable or uneven testing. Furthermore, certain conditions such as asthma, high blood pressure, heart problems, and other health problems are cited differently under the Americans With Disabilities Act. It's worth noting that employers may be liable for any injury incurred during a physical ability test.