A court recently held a Florida manufacturer liable for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by withdrawing a job offer based on a candidate’s back surgery six years prior. EEOC v. American Tool & Molding (M.D. Fla. 2014).
The candidate, Michael Matanic, worked as a conditional employee for American Tool & Molding (ATM). This case arose when he applied for a regular position with the company in 2010. ATM learned that Matanic had undergone back surgery in 2003. Matanic provided a doctor’s note from January 2010 indicating that he was cleared to take the lifting test required for the position. ATM’s health care provider, however, refused to administer the test. Instead, ATM insisted that Matanic provide a record from the surgeons who performed the surgery in 2003 about any work restrictions. ATM discharged Matanic when he did not provide this record.
The court held that ATM violated the ADA by regarding Matanic as disabled. The court faulted ATM for not giving Matanic an opportunity to prove his fitness. The court said that the ADA allows an employer to withdraw a job offer based on a pre-employment medical examination where an individualized assessment shows that candidate’s impairment precludes him or her from performing the job’s essential functions. ATM’s mistake was not performing an individualized assessment and, instead, relying on old information from the 2003 surgeon’s report.
It is understandable that employers with positions to fill that require physical labor may be concerned to learn about a candidate’s past injuries or medical conditions. Those employers can stay within the bounds of the ADA by requiring candidates for such positions to submit to post-offer, pre-employment medical examinations to ensure their fitness to perform the job’s essential functions. Employers cannot, however, reject candidates based on their speculation about how past injuries or medical conditions may affect current job performance.