53 Disabilities Inquiries and Medical Examinations

Where no request for reasonable accommodation has been made by the employee or someone acting on his or her behalf, the Rehabilitation Act limits an employer’s ability to make disability related inquiries to that person or to medical personnel who may have access to such information. Prohibited inquiries are those likely to elicit information about an employee’s disability (e.g., “what prescriptions are you taking?” “have you ever received workers’ compensation payments?”). You cannot ask such questions of any of the following:

However, you may make disability related inquiries and require medical examinations if one of the following occurs:

This same standard applies to requests for a fitness-for-duty exam. For example, if you observe the employee having difficulty performing the job (e.g., asking other people to read tags, swap job duties, and move tags closer to his or her face as if to see them better), these facts give you reason to believe that the employee’s ability to perform his or her job may be impaired and you may seek a fitness-for-duty exam. However, you may not require a medical examination or test (e.g., vision test) simply to confirm a suspicion of the existence of a disability.

You can make inquiries to medical personnel, based in whole or in part on information you receive from another person, if the information leads you to believe that a medical condition may impair an employee’s ability to perform essential job functions.

When a supervisor, manager, postmaster, or member of a RAC is in possession of medical information regarding an employee, it is confidential information and he or she can disclose only in limited circumstances. You may only disclose to individuals who have a genuine, work-related need to know the information. Furthermore, you must limit the disclosure to the information that the individual needs. For example, if an employee diagnosed with degenerative disc disease produces medical documentation that indicates that he may lift no more than 25 pounds, you may disclose the lifting limitation to his supervisor so she may accommodate it; but you may not disclose the diagnosed condition itself.