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Pre-Employment Inquiries and the ADA

For all job applicants, employers must comply with specific aspects of the Americans with Disabilities Act in their application, interviewing and other pre-employment procedures.

What Are the Restrictions on Pre-Employment Inquiries?

Questionnaires, applications, medical examinations, and tests are often used by employers to determine the competency of the applicant. Keep in mind that, at the pre-offer stage, disability-related questions and medical examinations are prohibited under the ADA.

How Should An Employer Handle Pre-Employment Inquires during the Interview Process?

  • All questions must be directly related to the ability of the applicant to perform tasks of the job.
  • Make sure to ask only questions regarding the information on the individual's application form.
  • An employer may ask the applicant what prior job duties he or she has performed.
  • An employer should be careful not to ask applicants about visible physical characteristics or their health status.
  • If an individual has a readily apparent disability (such as an individual who is deaf or hard of hearing), an employer may ask how the individual would perform certain essential functions of the job, if the employer has concerns about whether the individual can perform a specific task.
  • It is not legal to inquire if the applicant has a psychiatric disability, a history of having a psychiatric disability, or if he or she has consulted with a psychiatrist.
  • Questions cannot be asked about past drug addiction.

May An Employer Conduct an Employment Physical?

  • The law permits a medical examination if the medical evaluation is conducted after an offer of employment has been made.
  • If physicals are conducted, they must be conducted for all employees in that job category and the medical information gathered must be kept separate from the personnel file.
  • Drug testing is not considered a "medical examination" under the law. Therefore, pre-employment tests for illegal drug use are permitted by the ADA.

How Can An Employer Make Sure They Comply with the ADA Restrictions on Pre-Employment Inquiries?

  • Develop a thorough job description that identifies the essential elements of the job. By relying on this description, both the interviewer and applicant are aware of the essential elements of the job.