The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

EEOC Office of Legal Counsel staff members wrote the following informal discussion letter in response to an inquiry from a member of the public. This letter is intended to provide an informal discussion of the noted issue and does not constitute an official opinion of the Commission.


ADA: Disability-Related Inquiries and Medical Examinations

August 3, 2001

Dear :

This is in response to your April 6, 2001, letter to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC or Commission) seeking an opinion as to whether the is violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) (1) by asking questions about an individual's medical history when s/he applies for employment or requests a transfer from one facility to another. (2) You provided a copy of a document entitled "Medical History Questionnaire," which consists of 82 "Yes or No" and multiple choice questions, many of which you believe conflict with various guidelines issued by the EEOC.

General Principles

Section 102 of the ADA limits an employer's ability to make disability-related inquiries and require medical examinations at three stages: pre-offer, post-offer, and during employment. Prior to an offer of employment, the ADA prohibits all disability-related inquiries and medical examinations even if they are related to the job. After an applicant has been given a conditional job offer, but before s/he starts work, an employer may make disability-related inquiries and conduct medical examinations, regardless of whether they are related to the job, as long as it does so for all entering employees in the same job category. Once employment begins, an employer may make disability-related inquiries and require medical examinations only if they are job-related and consistent with business necessity. The Commission has issued guidances addressing the ADA's prohibitions at each stage. (3)

Applicants for Employment

In its guidance on Preemployment Questions and Medical Examinations, the Commission defined a "disability-related inquiry" as a question that is likely to elicit information about a disability. Questions, such as those on the questionnaire you provided, which specifically ask whether an individual has certain impairments (e.g., high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, arthritis); has "any medical restrictions on [his/her] drivers' license, other than eyeglasses or contact lenses"; or has "been treated for a mental or psychiatric problem in the past ten years" are disability-related inquiries. The , therefore, would violate the ADA by requiring applicants to answer these questions prior to being given a conditional job offer.

Transfers

You state that the also requires employees requesting transfers to other facilities to complete the questionnaire. It is not clear whether completion of the questionnaire is required of employees competing for a new job, employees who are noncompetitively entitled to another position, or both.

If an individual requesting a transfer must apply for it, then s/he must be treated as an applicant with respect to the rules concerning disability-related inquiries and medical examinations. The , therefore, could not require completion of the questionnaire before making the individual a conditional offer of the new position. Further, where a current supervisor has medical information regarding an employee who is applying for a new job, s/he may not disclose that information to the person interviewing the employee for the new job or to the supervisor of that job. This means that, for example, if a supervisor of a mail clerk in Philadelphia knows that the clerk has a back impairment or that she needed a reasonable accommodation in her current position, she may not disclose that information to someone in Cleveland who is evaluating the clerk's request to transfer there. The may require completion of the form after extending the employee a conditional offer of the new position, as long as it does so for all entering employees in the same job category.

If, on the other hand, an individual requesting a transfer is noncompetitively entitled to another position at a different facility (e.g., because of seniority or hardship), the individual should be treated as an employee. This means that the only may make disability-related inquiries or require medical examinations that are job-related and consistent with business necessity. Generally, a disability-related inquiry or medical examination of an employee may be job-related and consistent with business necessity when an employer has a reasonable belief, based on objective evidence, that: (1) an employee's ability to perform essential job functions will be impaired by a medical condition; or, (2) an employee will pose a direct threat due to a medical condition. In most cases, this standard is met when an employer knows about a particular employee's medical condition, has observed performance problems, and reasonably can attribute the problems to the medical condition. From the information you provided, it appears that the could not show that it is job-related and consistent with business necessity to require employees who are noncompetitively entitled to a transfer to complete the medical history questionnaire. However, the could still ask individual employees about particular medical conditions where it can show such inquiries are job-related and consistent with business necessity.

Conclusion

I hope this information is helpful to you. Please note, however, that this has been an informal discussion of the issues you raised and does not constitute an official opinion of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Sincerely,

Peggy R. Mastroianni
Associate Legal Counsel


1. Pursuant to the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1992, the ADA's employment standards apply to all nonaffirmative action employment discrimination of individuals with disabilities who are federal employees or applicants for federal employment. Pub. L. No. 102-569 §503(b), 106 Stat. 4344, 4424 (1992)(codified as amended at 29 U.S.C. §791(g)(1994). While your letter and this response refer to the ADA, the same standards apply under Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act to the .

2. The cover page of the questionnaire asks individuals to check whether they are "non-career" or "career" and to indicate the type of the position they have been offered (e.g., city carrier, clerk, custodian), which suggests that it is given to individuals who have been given a conditional offer of employment. You indicated, however, that it is your understanding that the questionnaire is given to applicants before they complete an employment application and to employees seeking transfers. Several statements on the form support this understanding. The "Privacy Act Statement," which precedes the list of questions, states that the "information provided will be used to determine physical/medical suitability for hiring purposes." Although the questionnaire states that "[completion of this form is voluntary," it also states that if information is not provided, "the assessment may be considered incomplete, and that failure to answer truthfully may result in ineligibility for employment or termination.

3. See Preemployment Disability-Related Questions and Medical Examinations Under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (1995) and Disability-Related Inquiries and Medical Examinations of Employees Under the ADA (2000). These and other guidances are available on the Internet at http://www.eeoc.gov.


This page was last modified on April 27, 2007.

Home Return to Home Page