When can my employer require me to take a fitness for duty exam?

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Answer: A fitness for duty exam is a medical examination of a current employee to determine whether the employee is physically or psychologically able to perform the job. Sometimes, fitness for duty exams are required when an employee is ready to return to work after taking time off for a serious illness or injury, to make sure the employee is capable of meeting the physical requirements of the job. A fitness for duty exam might also be required of an employee whose conduct on the job gives the employer reason to believe that the employee can't perform the job safely.

Because fitness for duty exams may reveal information about an employee's disability, they are regulated by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). An employer may require a fitness for duty exam of an employee with a disability only if the exam is job related and consistent with business necessity. This standard will generally be met if:

  • the employer has a reasonable belief that the employee's condition may prevent the employee from performing the job's essential functions, or
  • the employee poses a direct threat to his or her own safety or the safety of others. 

The exam must be limited to the employee's ability to return to work; the employer may not take advantage of the opportunity to request far-reaching information or medical testing about the employee's condition. 

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