Overview: There are a number of jobs where employers may conduct physical fitness tests of job applicants, provided the tests are not medical examinations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). However, these tests must be both job related and consistent with business necessity.
If a physical examination is in reality a medical exam, it may only be conducted post-offer. If it is not part of a medical exam, then the employer may require applicants to take a physical test either before or after extending a job offer.
Even where physical tests are not part of a medical exam, though, employers should tread cautiously in conducting any test that may have a disparate impact on a protected class of individuals.
For instance, a test that includes a 1.5-mile run may violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act unless there is a direct correlation between running and job performance because the requirement may screen out qualified female candidates.
The Dial Corporation found that out firsthand as the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a $3.3-million award to a group of rejected female applicants at its Iowa sausage-making plant.
Along similar lines, a lifting requirement that is not essential to the job may not comply with the ADA because it could discourage individuals with disabilities from applying for the position.
Author: David B. Weisenfeld, JD, Legal Editor
This How To outlines the steps that a prudent employer should take when conducting a preemployment medical examination.
In Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Dial Corp., 469 F.3d 735 (8th Cir., 2006), the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals addressed whether an employer's preemployment strength test discriminated against female job applicants.
Employment glossary definition of Ability Test.
Employment glossary definition of Aptitude Test.
Employment glossary definition of Physical Ability Test.
HR considerations about using physical fitness tests as part of the hiring process.