On August 14, 2015, the 7th Circuit held that an employer violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by ordering an employee to submit to a fitness-for-duty medical examination as a condition of employment. Wright v. Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, Nos. 13-1552 & 13-1553 (7th Cir. 8/14/2015). Under the ADA, it is unlawful for an employer to require an employee to submit to a medical exam unless it is consistent with business necessity and job-related. The employer must have a reasonable belief, based on pre-exam objective evidence, that a medical condition will impair an employee’s ability to perform the essential functions of his or her job, or that the employee will pose a threat due to the medical condition. This is a very high standard for the employer–it essentially must show that the exam is vital to its business. In Wright, the employer failed to establish that the exam was consistent with business necessity and job related because: (1) the employer had inconsistently applied its evaluation procedures; (2) the employee did not pose a risk; and (3) the exam was unrelated to the employer’s actual concerns about the employee.
The 7th Circuit also explained the constructive discharge doctrine. A constructive discharge occurs when an employee resigns, but the resignation is not truly voluntary. The employee must establish either: (1) that his or her working conditions are so intolerable or unbearable that a reasonable employee standing in his or her place would quit; or (2) that the employer took actions that would communicate to a reasonable employee that it is inevitable that he or she will be immediately terminated. The standard for a constructive discharge is difficult–conditions must be worse than a hostile work environment. In Wright, the employee refused to take the medical exam and, when faced with related disciplinary proceedings, took her vacation time and then retired. Under these circumstances, a constructive discharge did not occur, even though the medical exam was unlawful.