May an employer require an employee who has traveled to a Zika-affected area to undergo a medical examination before he or she returns to work?

Author: Melissa Gonzalez Boyce, XpertHR Legal Editor

It depends. Under the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), an employer may not require an employee to undergo a medical examination unless it is job-related and justified by a business necessity. Generally, the ADA allows an employer to request medical information or order a medical examination when an employer has a reasonable belief, based on objective evidence, that the employee will pose a direct threat (substantial harm) to others due to a medical condition. In determining whether an illness is a direct threat, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's Pandemic Guidance instructs employers to take direction from the Center of Disease Control or state/local public health authorities. Since Zika is not transmitted from person to person in casual contact, the ADA standard regarding a direct threat to others would not be satisfied in most workplaces.