Q. Do employers have to pay for a mandatory Doctors visit?
A. At the cross roads of healthcare privacy laws and employment laws are physician visits made mandatory by an employer. I consulted with employment attorney David Conforto, who states, “The short answer is that, if an employer requires an employee to go to a health care professional of the employer's choice, the employer must pay all costs associated with the visits.” Employers may ask a job candidate to get a pre-employment physical, which can include a drug test, all of which is paid by the employer.
Understanding why the employer is requesting medical data, or verification of information you may have provided is very important. Many employees are just as concerned about what an employer is looking for, as they are who will pay the bill. It is reasonable to ask an employer or prospective employer the purpose of such a visit.
Attorney Conforto also notes that, “An employer will require such an examination where the employee has suffered a workplace injury and wishes to return to work, in which case he or she will be considered a qualified handicapped person under state law, or where the employee is substantially limited in a major life activity and has requested a reasonable accommodation.”
Any medical examination conducted by the employer's health care professional must be job-related and consistent with business necessity. This means that the examination must be limited to determining the existence of a disability and the functional limitations that require reasonable accommodation.
An employer's insistence that an employee submit to a medical examination, even after the employee has provided sufficient evidence of the existence of a disability and the need for reasonable accommodation, can be considered retaliation. However, an employer that requests additional information or requires a medical examination based on a good faith belief that the documentation the employee submitted is insufficient would not be liable for retaliation.
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Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group LLC, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton. She works with clients across many industries including technology, biotech and medical devices, financial services, and healthcare, and has over 20 years of human resources experience.
Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm in Boston and serves on the board of Career Partners International.
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