The Disabled Workforce: Fitness-for-Duty Examination

DMEC Staff@Work

When a Fitness-for-Duty Examination Is the Appropriate Tool

Fitness-for-Duty ExaminationsBy Rachel Shaw, JD

CEO and Principal
Shaw HR Consulting

An employer can coordinate a fitness-for-duty (FFD) examination with a qualified healthcare provider if the need is job-related and consistent with business necessity and objective facts,1 if there are concerns about safety, or if an employee is not fully performing the job duties.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) requires an employer to have “reasonable belief” based on “objective evidence” that an employee’s work may be impacted by a disability. Concern for an employee’s general welfare is not grounds for an FFD exam, and using an FFD exam on accepted workers’ compensation claims usually just duplicates an expense already incurred.

An FFD exam would not be used unless an employee’s workplace performance or actions have triggered the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and there is concern the actual or perceived medical condition is affecting the employee’s ability to fully or safely perform the work assigned. Finally, the employer is only allowed two lines of inquiry:

  1. Whether the employee has a disability that substantially limits performance at work, and if so, what the employee’s work restrictions, functional limitations, or leave needs are
  2. The duration of said restrictions, limitations, or leave needs

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