Cost of blind faith in medical test: $4.4 million

Ouch! That’s an expensive legal lesson! A $4.4 million hit to the corporate checking account just reminded an Illinois employer that the ADA requires an individualized assessment of disabled employees’ ability to perform their jobs.

It’s not enough to simply read some test results and then extrapolate that disabled applicants or employees will be unable to perform the essential functions of a job.

The law requires employers to find out if each particular person can do a position’s particular work, with or without a reasonable accommodation.

Recent case: Amsted Rail, a leading manufacturer of railroad parts, agreed to pay $4.4 million to settle an EEOC lawsuit.

The company was accused of violating the ADA when it disqualified job applicants who were offered jobs contingent on passing certain medical tests.

Those included a nerve conduction test to check for carpal tunnel syndrome. Applicants who tested positive, according to a result interpreted by a third-party contractor, saw their job offers revoked.

The workers had applied for jobs as chippers, work that requires using a hammer or grinder to remove metal protrusions from steel casings. The test allegedly predicted which applicants would be unable to do the job or would later hurt themselves as a result of repetitive motion.

The EEOC said Amsted Rail should have assessed each applicant individually to determine if he or she could safely do the job instead of relying solely on test results.

Forty applicants will share the settlement. Some will get jobs.

Advice: If you administer post-offer, pre-employment medical tests, make sure they are based on business necessity and include an individualized assessment of whether the applicant actually cannot perform the job, with or without an accommodation. Using only test results without an additional individualized assessment violates the ADA.

Regardless of any test, always consider whether a reasonable accommodation would allow someone to perform the job.

Online resource Download our free white paper “ADA: The Limits of Accommodation.”