In the course of determining whether a plaintiff’s ADA Complaint should be dismissed, a court had the opportunity to examine an innovative technical attack upon a hospital’s rejection of a CNA’s application for a job which required heavy lifting. The plaintiff alleged that since an offer of employment was contingent not just upon a medical exam, but also upon an employment verification and a criminal background check, the job offer was not a “real” offer.
The plaintiff in Taylor v. Renown Health applied for a transfer into a particular medical unit dealing with patients who have heart conditions or who are obese or morbidly obese. Accordingly, the ability to lift considerable amounts of weight was an essential function of the job. Plaintiff was interviewed and received an offer of employment with the contingencies described above. She was directed to set up a medical exam. During the exam, the plaintiff disclosed to the examining doctor that she had limited movement in her left shoulder and the doctor found that she had limited arm strength. The plaintiff later was informed that she would not be hired because her physical limitations would impair her ability to perform the essential functions of the job.
The plaintiff pointed out that a medical examination may only take place when employment is contingent upon that examination. Plaintiff argued that since the job offer she received was contingent not only upon a medical examination, but on non-medical conditions (employment verification and a criminal background check) the employment offer she had received was not “real” and the employer violated the ADA by requiring her to have a physical exam. In support of its position, she cited a court case which found a violation of the ADA where the plaintiffs were given offers of employment contingent upon the completion of both background checks and medical exams. In that case, that court had held that by conducting a medical exam prior to the completion of all non-medical conditions the employer had failed to establish that the job offers were “real.” Thus, the plaintiff in Taylor argued that a job offer involves a two-step process, with the first step being the satisfaction of all non-medical contingencies and examinations, and the second step being the medical exam itself.
The court rejected that technical approach. It stated, in essence, that the ADA included the provision of a job offer prior to a medical exam so that there was only one remaining factor, the medical exam; and, an employer could not claim that its reason for rejecting a particular application was something other than a medical condition. However, the Taylor court found that the employer was not trying to hide the reason for its decision and had made it very clear that plaintiff was not hired because of the results of the medical examination she had undergone. Further, it found that even if there had been a technical violation of the ADA, there was no evidence that the plaintiff suffered any harm because the outcome of Taylor’s medical examination would have been the same regardless of whether the examination took place after the completion of all the non-medical components of the hiring process.
Even though the court in the Taylor matter rejected the technical challenge under the ADA and dismissed the lawsuit, employers would be well advised to make sure that all the non-medical conditions have been satisfied before requiring a medical examination. When the non-medical conditions have been satisfied, there can be no argument that the job offer was not “real” and, accordingly, no argument that the subsequent medical examination violated the provisions of the ADA.