Fitness for Duty Exams
When can employers require an employee to undergo a fitness-for-duty exam? The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) prevents an employer from requiring a medical examination, inquiring as to whether an employee has a disability, or inquiring as to the nature or severity of any disability, UNLESS the inquiry or examination is "job related and consistent with business necessity". (42 USC Section 12112(c)(4)(A)).
A fitness-for-duty examination seeks to determine if a current employee, returning from illness or injury, is able to safely and efficiently perform the essential functions of her or his job.
Fitness-for-duty exams can also provide an employer with information that will help identify reasonable accommodations to return the employee to the job.
Fitness-for-duty exams can involve psychiatric, medical, or physical conditions. TCOHR performs fitness-for-duty exams only for medical and physical conditions which can be assessed either by a physician, physical therapist, or both.
Before a fitness-for-duty can be scheduled, it is essential that TCOHR receives all of the relevant
medical records from the employee’s personal physician and any specialists who have treated the employee’s condition.
Functional job descriptions are also critical in helping to determine work readiness. TCOHR clinicians performing the fitness-for-duty, thoroughly review job descriptions in advance of the exam, ensuring the most thorough and accurate recommendations.
Not all records or medical findings are made available to an employer, for example, if they are unrelated to the purpose of the fitness-for-duty or because of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Once the employer receives the fitness-for-duty recommendation from TCOHR, options include: 1) Returning the employee to work, with or without modified duty or reasonable accommodations; 2) returning the employee to a different position; or 3) medically terminate the employee. In cases where neither a physical or medical condition are involved, an employer may pursue a psychiatric diagnosis or on-the-job, remedial guidance to improve job performance.