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EEOC settlement highlights pitfalls of employee physical assessments

A provider of housekeeping, food, and facilities support services has agreed to pay $520,000 to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

The lawsuit alleged that Hospital Housekeeping Systems, LLC (HHS) violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by requiring employees to take an essential functions test (EFT) at various stages of employment, even when portions of the test were not job-related.

According to the EEOC, HHS fired employees who failed any portion of the EFT, despite their ability to successfully perform the essential functions of their jobs. The company also failed to offer reasonable accommodations during the administration of the EFT.

The settlement requires HHS to provide reasonable accommodations to individuals with disabilities during the EFT, prohibits retaliation against employees who complain about the test, and bars the company from terminating employees solely based on a failed EFT. HHS will also conduct semiannual training on EFT testing and retaliation under the ADA.

Reminder to employers

This case serves as a reminder for employers to carefully consider their use of physical examinations and assessments. Under the ADA, physical assessments for applicants and employees must be tailored to the actual requirements of the job in question. Employers must also ensure that any decision to revoke a job offer or terminate an employee based on examination results is job-related and consistent with business necessity.

Furthermore, employers are required to make reasonable accommodations for known disabilities at all stages of the employment process, including during testing procedures. Simply labeling a test as an “essential functions test” does not absolve an employer of their responsibilities under the ADA if the test extends beyond the actual essential functions of the job.

As the EEOC continues to enforce the ADA and protect the rights of employees with disabilities, employers should review their physical assessment practices to ensure compliance and avoid potential legal consequences.