McNamee Hosea News & Press


Inquires About Medical History May Violate Employment Laws

A recent lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission provides guidance to employers and employees alike regarding the limits of pre-employment checks.

According to the EEOC’s complaint, an American company allegedly required job applicants to undergo medical exams and answer questions about their medical background. The EEOC further claims that at least one applicant was denied a position based on his responses to the questionnaire. For that behavior, EEOC officials allege that the private employer violated federal employment laws by discriminating on the basis of both disability and genetic information. 

Specifically, the applicant disclosed that his family had a history of a particular heart condition, and that he had also been hospitalized at least once for that issue. As an employment attorney might agree, denying a job offer on the basis of a perceived disability might violate the Americans With Disabilities Act.

For companies that are concerned about a best practices approach to disability in their employment agreements, employee handbooks and other internal publications, an attorney might agree that inquiries about disability are generally discouraged -- at any time. Even if there is a business necessity or compelling safety reason for employers to ask such questions, a consultation with an attorney might help to avoid pitfalls.

The instant lawsuit suggests that the interpretation of disability is extending into genetic background and information. As DNA evidence becomes increasingly more accessible and inexpensive to analyze, it might be tempting to ask questions about medical history. However, another federal law, the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act, generally prohibits such questions.

Source:, “EEOC Sues Abatti Group for Disability, Genetic Information Discrimination”