What employers should know about the ADA and fitness-for-duty exams

Amanda Bynes on the Red Carpet (cropped2)

Imagine, if you will, that two years ago you hired Amanda Bynes to be your Social Media Manager. Things are going pretty smoothly, until your customers begin complaining that company’s Twitter feed has gone from informative and witty to curious and more-or-less bizarre.

After reviewing the tweets for yourself, you wonder whether you picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue Ms. Bynes is fit to perform the job of Social Media Manager. One tool in your arsenal is a fitness-for-duty evaluation with a medical provider.

But if you send Ms. Bynes for this test, she fails, and you end up firing her, does that mean that you have violated the Americans with Disabilities Act?

According to this recent MD federal court decision, probably not:

A request that an employee obtain a medical exam may signal that an employee’s job performance is suffering, but that cannot itself prove perception of a disability because it does not prove that the employer perceives the employee to have an impairment that substantially limits one or more of the employee’s major life activities. Deteriorating performance may be linked to motivation or other reasons unrelated to disability, and even poor performance may not constitute a disability under the ADA.

Therefore, in this particular instance, you may require that Ms. Bynes submit to a fitness-for-duty test. However, the rules governing medical examinations and the ADA can be complicated. So, be sure to consult with an employment lawyer before requiring an employee to submit to any sort for medical examination.

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