Fitness for Duty Exams, What You Should Know About Them

As an employer, you want to make sure that you are hiring workers that can handle the work you give them. If you hire someone who is not fit for the job, you could potentially have a long and drawn out workers’ compensation claim on your hands. These tests are simply designed to make sure that you can filter out the right people for the job and those whose skills could be better utilized in a different field. One of the first things to ask yourself is when are the appropriate times to perform a fit for duty examination on your employees.

When Can You Legally Perform a Fit for Duty Exam?

So there are two important agencies that one needs to take into consideration when distributing a fit for duty examination. There is the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC, who have stated that it is the right, by law, of employers to administer fitness for duty exams as outlined in their Uniform Guidelines to Employee Selection Procedures. There is also the Americans with Disabilities Act or ACA, which states that discrimination when hiring a worker who is qualified to work regardless of their disability is illegal. This means that if a potential worker’s disability doesn’t interfere with the type of work they wish to do, then it cannot be a factor in their fit for duty exam or a reason to not hire them. After administering the test when hiring an employee, there are certain times that the EEOC says that an already-working employee can be given a fit for duty exam including:

  • If the employee in question has shown any indication that they are having difficulty in performing their job
  • If there is significant evidence that the employee in question has become afflicted since they started working with a medical condition that is limiting their capability to perform their job safely
  • If the employee in question is returning after a leave of absence
  • If the employee in question wants a new accommodation

It is important to keep in mind that the mission of the fit for duty exams is to make sure that the worker can function safely under the physical demands of their job. They are made to mitigate the risks of workplace injuries and make the work environment safer overall.

The Different Types of Fit for Duty Exams

With all the different circumstances which can allow an employer to administer a fit for duty test, one can assume that there are multiple types of these examinations. In fact, there are three different types of these tests depending on when the employee is being tested. These three types of tests are:

  1. The Pre-Placement Physical Exam. Often, this takes the form of a questionnaire with a large number of questions about the general lifestyle and habits of the employee. In the case of labor-intensive work, there will also be a physical portion of the exam to determine any possible physical limitations that could keep the employee out of more difficult labor.
  2. The Post-Employment Job Assessment Exam. This exam is to be conducted if an employee is showing signs that they are becoming unable to keep up with the physical demands of their job safely.
  3. The Post Leave of Absence Exam. Also called the Return to Work Exam, this test is to make sure that after a long medical leave or recovery time, a returning employee can still perform the essential functions of their job safely. This test can still be administered if an employee has a physician’s note that states that they can work without restrictions.

Depending on the physicality of the work involved, employers might want to opt for more physical-heavy tests. These kinds of exams can also be called Physical Abilities Testing and operate in the same way as fitness for duty exams. It is always important to make sure that your employees can perform the job they applied for. Preventing workers compensation claims is more than saving money, it’s about creating a safer working environment.

How To Get the Best Results from a Fitness for Duty Examination

Whenever you have to give out a fitness for duty examination, you want to make sure that you are getting the full spectrum of information. After all, if you miss anything, it could turn into an accident that could put your entire business at risk. In order to make sure that you are getting all the information you need out of this exam it is vital to follow these guidelines:

  • Each employee is different. It is important to have an open discussion with your employees if something comes up in their exam that is questionable. For example, if they have a prosthetic arm or have had a blood transfusion, you may feel like they may not be suitable for your field of work. However, open and clear communication can reveal that the employee is actually better equipped for a job following such a procedure.
  • Make sure the person administering the exam is knowledgeable. This can mean two things:
    • Making sure that the trained doctor or medical profession performing the fitness for duty tests on your employees is qualified for their position.
    • Making sure they know the full job description of what they are testing your employees for and that they have access to the full medical records of your employees.

Following this rough outline will ensure that whenever you are having your employees tested for how fit they are for the job that you get the full results you need. The whole goal in administering fitness for duty tests is to make sure that the employee and work environment maintain a level of safety. This cuts down on injuries, equipment damage, and workers compensation claims. One can think of being fit for duty as another qualification in applying for a job; if you can’t safely do the work, you shouldn’t be working.

To take the guesswork out of trying to find a qualified party to test your employees, turn to the specialists at WorkSTEPS who have been testing employees for over 20 years. Contact them at (512) 617-4100.