An Illinois manufacturer of steel castings for the rail industry was just sued by the EEOC for allegedly violating the ADA. The EEOC alleges that the company illegally asks job applicants if they “have a history of carpal tunnel syndrome and gives them a nerve conduction tests.” See: http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/11-20-14.cfm.
Although the EEOC press release does not clearly explain the company’s professed need for such questions or the nerve test, it may be assumed that the company certainly views these as job-related.
In any event, the EEOC said that “the most current relevant published medical literature does not support the use of such tests alone, or the use of prior medical history alone, to predict the development of carpal tunnel. … The result of these practices, according to the agency, was to deny employment opportunities to a class of people who had a history of carpal tunnel syndrome or who [the company] believed might develop that condition.”
As noted above, it is not clear to us whether there is a relationship between the job duties of this particular position and carpal tunnel syndrome. But we may assume that the company feels that there is such a relationship, and that it is even possible that the EEOC may agree — the EEOC questioned the medical appropriateness or accuracy of the nerve test as a predictor and made no blanket statement that carpal tunnel syndrome does not prevent an employee from performing the relevant job duties with or without accommodations — as might be expected from the EEOC if that were the case.
In any event, under the ADA the EEOC has gone after employers who make stereotypical assumptions about disabilities and the ability to perform the job, i.e, the perception of disability. Read our blog of yesterday.
Said an EEOC attorney, quite accurately summarizing the relevant provisions of the ADA:
“Employment decisions, including hiring decisions, must be based on a person’s ability to perform the job, not on stereotypes, assumptions or conjecture. An individualized assessment of the applicant’s present ability to safely perform the job duties is required if an employer screens out an applicant based on medical tests or exams in the hiring process.”