Employer May Require Medical Information or Examination Based on Safety Concerns


U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit held that an employer was entitled to require an employee to submit information from his doctor based upon legitimate safety concerns.

In Mitchell v. U.S. Postal Service, the employee suffered from depression, which required him to take a number of medical leaves. Upon his return from his most recent leave, he submitted a note from his doctor that cleared him to return. However, at the same time, the employer received a letter from the employee’s wife that questioned his mental stability and suggesting that he would suffer a breakdown if he returned to work. The employer placed the employee on leave and asked him to provide medical documentation to confirm that he posed no threat of harm to himself or others. He refused, and was eventually terminated. He then sued for violation of the Rehabilitation Act (the corollary to the Americans with Disabilities Act applicable to government employees).

The court held that the employer’s concern about workplace safety was a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for requesting a medical examination. In so finding, the Sixth Circuit joined at least three other circuits – the Second, Seventh and Eleventh.