Information for Applicants
Obtaining and Using Medical Information
The Americans with Disabilities Act limits the medical information that an employer can seek from a job applicant. During the application stage, an employer may not ask questions about an applicant's medical condition or require an applicant to take a medical examination before it makes a conditional job offer. This means that an employer cannot ask:
After making a job offer, an employer may ask questions about an applicant's health (including asking whether the applicant has diabetes) and may require a medical examination as long as it treats all applicants the same.
1. May an employer ask any follow-up questions if an applicant reveals that she has diabetes?
If an applicant voluntarily tells an employer that she has diabetes, an employer only may ask two questions: whether she needs a reasonable accommodation and what type of accommodation.
Example: An individual applying at a grocery store for a cashier's position voluntarily discloses that she has diabetes and will need periodic breaks to take medication. The employer may ask the applicant questions about the reasonable accommodation, such as how often she will need breaks and how long the breaks need to be. Of course, the employer may not ask any questions about the condition itself, such as how long the applicant has had diabetes, whether she takes any medication, or whether anyone else in her family has diabetes.
2. What should an employer do when it learns that an applicant has diabetes after he has been offered a job?
The fact that an applicant has diabetes may not be used to withdraw a job offer if the applicant is able to perform the fundamental duties ("essential functions") of a job, with or without reasonable accommodation, without posing a direct threat to safety. ("Reasonable accommodation" is discussed on Information for Employers at Questions 1 through 4. "Direct threat" is discussed at Questions 5 through 7.) The employer, therefore, should evaluate the applicant's present ability to perform the job effectively and safely. After an offer has been made, an employer also may ask the applicant additional questions about his condition. For example, following an offer, an employer could ask the applicant how long he has had diabetes, whether he takes any medication, and whether the condition is under control. The employer also could send the applicant for a follow-up medical examination. An employer may withdraw an offer from an applicant with diabetes only if it becomes clear that he cannot do the essential functions of the job or would pose a direct threat (i.e., a significant risk of substantial harm) to the health or safety of himself or others.
Example: A qualified candidate for a police officer's position is required to have a medical exam after he has been extended a job offer. During the exam, he reveals that he has had diabetes for five years. He also tells the doctor that since he started using an insulin pump two years ago, his blood sugar levels have been under control. The candidate also mentions that in his six years as a police officer for another department, he never had an incident related to his diabetes. Because there appears to be no reason why the candidate could not safely perform the duties of a police officer, it would be unlawful for the employer to withdraw the job offer.
Excerpted and Adapted from the EEOC Fact Sheet: The Americans with Disabilities Act and Diabetes by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Reviewed by Francine Kaufman, MD. 4/08
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