May an employer require an employee who has traveled to an area affected by an infectious disease outbreak or is suspected of having an infectious disease to undergo a medical examination before returning to work?

Author: XpertHR Editorial Team

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 Preparedness Guidance instructs employers to take direction from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or state/local public health authorities.

If a disease can be transmitted from person-to-person, an employer may be able to request that an employee returning from an affected location stay home until the incubation period passes or, if the employee is showing symptoms of the illness, submit a fitness-for-duty certificate from a health care provider.