Q. We are looking to hire several new workers in our receiving department. The job will require lifting heavy boxes. Can we ask applicants about any current medical conditions or disabilities that would prevent them from doing so? Can we ask applicants to pass a physical test to see if they can fulfill the requisite job duties?
A. The ADA prohibits employers from asking applicants questions that are likely to reveal the existence of a disability before making a job offer.
Thus, employers cannot make any pre-employment inquiry about a disability or the nature or severity of a disability. That covers written questionnaires, inquiries made during interviews and medical examinations.
An employer may, however, ask applicants questions about their ability to perform specific job functions. In addition, an employer may, with certain limitations, ask an individual with a disability to describe or demonstrate how he or she would perform those functions.
After extending a job offer to an applicant, but before the individual starts work, employers are permitted to ask questions about disabilities or require the person to take medical examinations.
In addition, an employer may condition a job offer on the satisfactory result of a post-offer medical exam or medical inquiry—as long as the employer requires this of all new employees in the same job category.
State law also prohibits certain pre-offer inquiries. The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) also prohibits an employer from requiring an applicant to complete a medical examination or from making an inquiry into whether he or she has a mental or physical disability or medical condition. Employers also are restricted from inquiring into the nature and severity of a mental or physical disability or medical condition.
However, state law permits an employer to ask about the ability of an applicant to perform job-related functions.