Threat of suicide justifies medical exam

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in Leaders & Managers,Preventing Workplace Violence

Employers are sometimes nervous about demanding that an employee undergo a medical exam. They fear doing so somehow violates the ADA. However, in an age when workplace violence often makes headlines, employers also have to think about safety.

If an employee threatens suicide or some other violent act, it’s legal for an employer to order a fitness-for-duty exam.

Recent case: Bruce Scott, who worked for Allied Waste, admitted to being nervous and “twitchy.” When he was going through a divorce, he apparently told a co-worker that he was contemplating killing himself, possibly by jumping from a company truck or stepping in front of it. The co-worker told a supervisor, and the company ordered a fitness exam.

Scott sued, alleging the exam was illegal under the ADA.

The court disagreed. It said that the exam was consistent with business necessity. (Scott v. Allied Waste, No. 10-105, ED PA, 2010)

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