Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, it is unlawful to inquire unreasonably into a person’s medical background. Under the ADA prior to the 2009 amendments, a person whose disability was controlled by treatment was not considered disabled. So, what happens when a person with controlled epilepsy is asked about his medications and then is rejected? Well, in Harrison v. Benchmark Electronics Huntsville, Inc., the court found that the applicant was entitled to file suit even though, under the pre-amendment ADA, the person was not considered disabled.
In this decision, the 11th Circuit joined several other circuits (not including the 5th) in finding a private right to sue. The applicant was a temporray worker for the employer. The employer frequently hired temp workers permanently. The employer routinely asked for a drug test as part of the application procedure. Mr. Harrison tested positive for barbituates, which he took for epilepsy. The applicant explained the nature of his medication. The company’s medical review officer confirmed the medical requirement of the medicine. But, without explanation, the employer rejected Mr. Harrison’s application.
Under the old ADA, the EEOC rejected Mr. Harrison’s charge, saying he was not disabled. His epilepsy was controlled by medication. The employee filed suit. On appeal, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals found that a private right to sue was available to persons who are not disabled due to improper medical inquiries. As Law Professor points out, the utility of this finding may wane as we get further down the road from the 2009 amendments. This ruling specifically applies to non-disabled persons. So, the effect could be opposite. Improper medical inquiries to persons without a disability, controlled or otherwise, may actually continue. As Law Professor points out, the ruling would apply whenever a person is required to undergo a medical test not related to job skills that would not otherwise be required.