Preplacement Examinations and Job-Relatedness: How to Enhance Privacy and Diminish Discrimination in the Workplace

77 Pages Posted: 1 Nov 2000 Last revised: 15 May 2021

See all articles by Sharona Hoffman

Sharona Hoffman

Case Western Reserve University School of Law

Date Written: 2001


Medical testing in the workplace is raising growing concern in light of increasingly available genetic tests and what is perceived as a general assault on individual privacy in the United States. Almost seventy percent of major U.S. firms require individuals who receive job offers to undergo medical testing prior to the commencement of employment, and the law does not restrict the scope of these examinations. Thus, employers test job candidates not only for fitness for duty and use of illegal substances, but also for a variety of conditions including susceptibility to workplace hazards, breast and colon cancer, sexually transmitted diseases, HIV infection, sickle cell anemia, pregnancy, and Huntington Disease. Over fifteen percent of employers require applicants to provide family medical histories, nearly forty percent utilize psychological testing, and a small percentage already conduct genetic testing.

This article explores the legal and policy implications of preplacement medical examinations. It recommends that the Americans with Disabilities Act be amended so that it would prohibit employers from conducting preplacement examinations that are not job-related. The author argues that non-job-related medical testing constitutes an unjustifiable invasion of the examinee's privacy and creates temptations and opportunities for discrimination on the part of employers. Furthermore, individuals who undergo testing and receive unexpected and distressing results without obtaining appropriate counseling may suffer significant psychological trauma. For employers, medical examinations that are not job-related constitute an unnecessary financial expenditure and create a risk of litigation based on invasion of privacy, discrimination, and other theories. In addition, invasive medical testing can erode morale and productivity in the workplace.

Keywords: Americans with Disabilities Act, disability discrimination, employment discrimination, pre-employment medical testing, genetic discrimination,privacy

JEL Classification: K32

Suggested Citation

Hoffman, Sharona, Preplacement Examinations and Job-Relatedness: How to Enhance Privacy and Diminish Discrimination in the Workplace (2001). 49 Kansas Law Review 517 (2001), Available at SSRN:

Sharona Hoffman (Contact Author)

Case Western Reserve University School of Law ( email )

11075 East Boulevard
Cleveland, OH 44106-7148
United States
216-368-3860 (Phone)


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