- A school's decision to require that a teacher be evaluated at a mental health facility was a business necessity and was not pretext for disability discrimination, the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled (López-López v. The Robinson School, et al., No. 19-1386 (1st Cir. May 11, 2020)).
- A supervisor at the Robinson School called Sandra López-López into a meeting after witnessing the sixth grade teacher grow agitated with "rowdy" students. When López-López was informed she'd be suspended, she had what she described as "a temporary nervous breakdown," during which she stated suicidal intent. The school then said she must submit to an evaluation at a mental health facility to keep her job. At the facility, López-López was interviewed by a doctor but refused to admit herself. Through a court order, the school involuntarily admitted her to the hospital, where she was treated for two days before being released to an outpatient program, which deemed her ready to work several weeks later. Before she returned, she filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleging disability discrimination, among other claims.
- López-López argued the school discriminated against her by conditioning her employment on a mental health evaluation. But the evaluation was a business necessity, a test organizations must pass to require medical examinations under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the 1st Circuit said, as her response to the news of her suspension indicated she "could not perform her job," the court said.
An employer may require an employee to undergo a medical exam if it can demonstrate business necessity, the 1st Circuit said in its opinion. Otherwise, employers may not require such measures, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) states in guidance.
Of course, employers must ensure they apply medical exams in a non-discriminatory fashion. EEOC sued a contractor in May 2019, alleging it required a worker to submit to medical exams until one produced results it could use to support termination.
Employers may be paying close attention to medical exams and related requirements because of the novel coronavirus. Employers can conduct on-site COVID-19 tests, EEOC said late April. The agency also cleared employer temperature screenings. With these announcement, however, came warnings that apply to all medical tests: employers may not single out employees or applicants for testing on the basis of race, religion, sex or other protected characteristics; employers also must keep all information obtained confidential.