Q. What pre-employment inquiries may be made regarding disability?
A tax auditor has done fewer audits and made more mistakes in her work lately. When questioned, she tells her supervisor that her medication for lupus makes her lethargic and unable to concentrate. Based on this reasonable belief that her ability will be impaired by a medical condition, her supervisor may ask her to provide documentation from her doctor explaining the effects of the medication on her ability to perform the job.
A crane operator works at construction sites hoisting concrete panels weighing several tons. During a break, he appears to become light-headed, has to sit down abruptly, and has trouble catching his breath. In response to a supervisor's question about whether he is feeling all right, he says this has happened to him a few times during the past several months. The employer has a reasonable belief that the employee will pose a direct threat and therefore may require a medical exam to ascertain the crane operator’s fitness for the job.
A supervisor overhears a secretary tell a co-worker that she discovered a lump in her breast and is afraid she may have breast cancer. Since that conversation, she still comes to work every day and performs her duties in her normal efficient manner. Since the employer does not have a reasonable belief, based on objective evidence, that the secretary will not be able to perform her job functions, no disability-related inquiries are allowed.
A university food service worker tells his supervisor that he is HIV-positive. The supervisor is concerned because the employee works with sharp knives and might cut himself while preparing food. The food service unit requires any employee working with sharp knives to wear gloves, and frequently observes employees for compliance. Moreover, the Department of Health and Human Services does not include HIV on the list of infectious and communicable diseases that may be transmitted through food handling. Thus the employer does not have a reasonable belief, based on objective evidence, that this employee poses a threat.