Exclusion Due to Disability in the Medical Office

Most positions in the allied health and healthcare industry are conditioned on the applicant passing a medical examination (the so called pre-employment physical). If a job requirement excludes a healthcare worker, including a medical assistant working under the direct supervision of a doctor, from a position due to a disability, the requirement must be job-related and consistent with business necessity. Some requirements will obviously meet this standard, such as licenses required by state and/or local governments for doctors and other healthcare professionals. In other instances, however, an employer may need to consider whether the standard that is excluding an individual with a disability from employment accurately predicts the individual’s ability to perform the job’s essential functions. For example, a medical assistant in a wheel chair could work in the front desk recepition area.

female worker with disability does dataentry work

Many states and localities have disability and anti-discrimination laws and agencies responsible for enforcing those laws. A leading national health care staffing firm in Pittsburgh, PA violated federal law by withdrawing an offer of employment to a certified nursing assistant because she was HIV-positive. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged the firm with discrimination in a lawsuit.

In EEOC v. LA Weight Loss (D. Md. Dec. 1, 2008) , EEOC alleged that a chain of weight loss counseling centers with facilities in 21 states had a companywide policy of refusing to hire men into the positions of medical assistant, trainer, sales counselor and various management positions.

Both applicant flow and census data showed that men were not hired consistent with their availability and employees were told by managers that defendant was not interested in hiring men because management believed that female clients responded better to female counselors.


Healthcare job applicants, or hired employees, who believe that their employment rights have been violated on the basis of disability by a private sector, state government, or local government can file a Charge of Discrimination proceeding with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The charge must be filed by mail or in person with a local EEOC office within 180 days from the date of the alleged violation.


EEOC refers to these agencies as “Fair Employment Practices Agencies" (FEPAs). Individuals may file a charge with either the EEOC or a FEPA. If an Americans with Disability (ADA) charge filed with the EEOC is also covered by a state or local disability discrimination law, the EEOC will “dual file” the charge with the FEPA but usually will retain the charge for investigation.


Questions and Answers about Health Care Workers and the Americans with Disabilities Act


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