Your employees are the most prized asset of your organization. In times when critical illnesses are on the rise, prioritizing employee health has become more important than ever. More so, since employees’ well-being impacts their performance, which ultimately affects the bottom line of businesses.
Besides existing employees, you can conduct a health screening of potential employees to determine if they are the right fit for the role you’re hiring.
Health assessments supply valuable information about existing and potential employees’ overall health and wellness. However, employers need to conduct them as per the current employment laws.
In this article, we’ll delve into the legal aspects surrounding employee health screening in the U.S. We will also share a few best practices for implementing employee health screening in your organization.
The Legalities of Employee Health Screening
Employee health screening isn’t as common as drug screening, but it makes sense. It increases workplace safety and protects the company against liability, notes Health Street.
Through employee health screenings, existing employees’ overall health is evaluated, which helps identify underlying conditions they are suffering from, if any. Many employers ask potential employees to take a health assessment to determine if they are physically fit to carry out job-related responsibilities.
However, employers need to adhere to federal, state, and local regulations when it comes to health screenings. Before implementing it, you must be aware of employee health screening rules.
In regard to employee health screenings, it’s essential to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Non-compliance with the ADA will lead to legal issues. The ADA prohibits using pre-hire tests that could be perceived as a mental health assessment or a medical exam in an employment setting.
In other words, employers aren’t allowed to ask employees to take health screening tests that detect physical or mental health conditions, chronic illnesses, and disabilities. The primary purpose behind this is to protect individuals with mental disabilities.
However, employers may ask potential employees to take health assessments if they are related to job responsibilities. That is to say, if the role requires lifting heavy objects over 50 pounds, health screening will help determine whether the individual is competent.
Employers can only request employees with conditional job offers for health assessment under the ADA if:
- All job applicants are subjected to the same screening process
- The results of the health assessment won’t be used to discriminate against potential hires
- Confidentiality of medical records is maintained and kept separate from other employee records
The ADA also prohibits employers from asking candidates about their disability unless they have issued a conditional employment offer. If any employee is found to be impaired, employers must make reasonable accommodations to address their disability.
Besides ADA, employee medical exams must comply with the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Under this act, employers are forbidden from discriminating against employees on the basis of religion, sex, national origin, color, or race. This includes all medical tests that may be used when making hiring decisions.
Best Practices for Implementing Employee Health Testing
Now that you’ve decided to integrate employee health testing into your company’s hiring process, here are some best practices to ensure fairness:
1. Make Sure the Test Reflects the Inherent Demand of the Role
The most important step in implementing employee health assessment is selecting the test that aligns with the inherent demand of a role. In this regard, using position descriptions or job dictionaries will be helpful. Doing so will help you understand if an assessment is relevant to the expectations of the job and the risks associated with it.
For relevant results, tailored tests will be best. These are less expensive than many “off-the-shelf” health screening solutions and eliminate legal risks.
2. Obtain Written Consent From Candidates
Before you conduct any employee health assessment, obtain written consent from all candidates. Clearly explain the test they will have to take, their purpose, and how you will use the results.
If a candidate refuses to consent, you shouldn’t proceed with the medical examination. Candidates often agree to the test but object to a part of it. In such scenarios, you should refrain from conducting the test.
3. Maintain the Confidentiality of Candidates’ Health Information
As already mentioned, maintaining the confidentiality of candidates’ health information is important. However, you can share the information with decision-makers so that they can make correct employment decisions. Note that it should be shared on a need-to-know basis only with authorized personnel.
In regard to employees’ health information, compliance with HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) is essential. HIPAA protects employees’ privacy by restricting the use and sharing of their health information without their permission. Non-compliance with HIPAA may result in criminal and civil penalties.
Navigating the complex landscape of employee health screening is tricky. However, these assessments will help you identify any health condition that may interfere with an employee’s ability to perform job-related tasks.
Make sure to learn about the legal aspects of employee health screening before implementing it. Also, ensure that the tests are conducted in accordance with the guidelines laid down by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Remember that each test conducted should be job-related, and every candidate must take the same test. That way, there won’t be any discrimination.