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Are Fitness Duty Exams Required for Job Positions?

A fitness exam is a medical exam that a current employee might have to undergo before going back to work. The exam assesses whether the person is physically and physiologically fit to perform the duties of their job. These exams often take place after an employee has taken time off due to a serious injury or mental health issue. Some employees may also have to go through this process if their behavior raises safety concerns, such as on an offshore oil rig.

Several different types of fitness for duty examinationsare available to employers in the US. The most common ones are described below.

Return to Work

After an employee has received the all-clear to return to work following an injury, they may be referred to a Return to Work Exam. This type of exam can assess both physical and mental health.

Job Performance

Employers might ask employees to undergo vision exams if they are concerned about their job performance. For example, if an employee using a forklift crashes into a shelf and narrowly misses driving into another coworker, the employer may require that a vision exam take place. Unlike other types of exams, where the employer provides medical evidence to back up the job-performance concerns, the employee has to provide the medical evidence in this case.

Physical Ability Test

A physical ability test measures an applicant’s or employee’s ability to complete a series of physical tasks. Considering the physical demands of the job and the potential risk to an employee’s health, these tests are often used as a screening tool by employers.

Does my employer have the right to make me take a fitness test?

Whether or not your employer can require you to take a fitness for duty exam will depend largely on what your job is and what your condition is that might impact your ability to do the job.

When you take time off for a serious health condition—whether physical or mental, your employer may request that you undergo a fitness-for-duty exam. A fitness-for-duty exam is given to employees who have been absent from work due to illness or injury, in order to assess risks and safety both for the employee and for other employees. The employer may also request a fitness-for-duty exam to ensure you are able to perform the duties of your job.

Your employer may ask you to take a medical exam if you need time off, or you may have an exam already scheduled with your doctor. If your behavior at work has suddenly changed and given your employer reason to believe that you may be at risk for injuring yourself or others, then your employer may request this exam. For example, if you are found unconscious, unresponsive, or otherwise unable to perform your job duties, then you may need to seek medical care before returning to work.

A good rule of thumb is to follow the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s advice: “With respect to employees, an employer may ask questions about disability or require medical examinations only if doing so is job-related and consistent with business necessity.”

Also, under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and ADA, you have the right to return to your job unless you are 100% healed from your injury. The employer may only require that you can perform the essential functions of your job, with or without reasonable accommodations.

Why Does It Matter If I Have a Disability?

If you are disabled, your employer is limited in the type of exam they may ask you to take. It is illegal for an employer to use a fitness-for-duty exam as a way to determine whether you have a disability. However, if an employer has a reasonable belief of the following, they can ask you to take a fitness-for-duty exam:

  • Employees with medical or psychological conditions may be unable to perform their duties.
  • By engaging in the activity, the employee poses a direct threat to the safety of other employees as well as themselves.

Employers must be able to provide factual evidence that their concerns are valid. If not, it could be a violation of FEHA and the ADA.

If you are an employee or employer and want to know more about the fitness for duty tests then contact PCP Works. They will guide you through about that and also provide facilities to get employees tested so that you can save your money and time.

Christopher Stern

Christopher Stern is a Washington-based reporter. Chris spent many years covering tech policy as a business reporter for renowned publications. He has extensive experience covering Congress, the Federal Communications Commission, and the Federal Trade Commissions. He is a graduate of Middlebury College. Email:[email protected]

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