ADA: job interviews and chronic illness. Your rights....

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Posted by Bob Johnson ( on September 04, 2001 at 15:14:30:

This material quoted from: SPONDYLITIS PLUS, a publication of the Spondylitis Assn of America, v. 18, #3, Fall, 2001.



What can a potential employer ask?
What are your rights under the disabilities act?

Applying for a new job often is hard enough--whether or not you have a chronic illness--without having to worry about what an interviewer may ask about your health. For those who have...(a) chronic illness, the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) makes it easier by drawing strict lines between what a prospective employer can and cannot ask.

1. Employers cannot ask your age, sexual preference or whether you have a physical disability. Even if the disability is obvious, the interviewer cannot ask about the severity of the condition.

2. For instance, an interviewer cannot ask if you have ever filed a claim for workers' compensation. You cannot be asked if you have a specific medical condition, such as a heart problem or diabetes, or if you have seen a physician within a given number of years.

3. An interviewer can ask if you have any physical condition that would affect your ability to do the job and may require a test to verify your ability. Any testing (whether for typing capability, for lifting heavy equipment, etc.) must be job-related and must be given to all applicants.

4. An interviewer also can ask whether there are accommodations he might need to make to help you perform the job. A need for "reasonable accommodations" does not disqualify you. You can be denied a job if the necessary accommodations are deemed "unreasonable" because they would cause an employer "significant difficulty or expense."

5. Employers may make a tentative job offer contingent upon the results of a medical exam. They cannot require a medical exam prior to making the offer; all new hires must be subject to the same tests, and all information must be kept confidential. Again, the only purpose of this exam is to evaluate your ability to do the job.

6. Employers must provide identical insurance coverage to all employees. (But benefit plans that don't provide coverage for pre-existing conditions are acceptable.)

7. If you are not hired and want to know if the results of the physical were a factor, you have a right to request a copy of the exam report. And if you feel that you were discriminated against because of your disability, you have the right to challenge the employer's decision.

If you want more information about provisions of the act, you may call the United States Department of Justice ADA hotline at 202/514-0301 or visit the ADA home page,

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