EEOC Warns about ADA Impact of Health Assessments

May 8, 2009 ( - The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has indicated that requiring workers to undergo a health risk assessment that includes disability questions likely violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Peggy R. Mastroianni, EEOC associate legal counsel, asserted in an “informal discussion letter” that the scenario of undergoing such an assessment as a prerequisite for coverage“does not appear to be job-related and consistent with business necessity, and therefore would violate the ADA.”

Mastroianni said that even if the health assessment could be considered part of a wellness program, the effort would not be voluntary, because workers choosing not to participate in the assessment are denied a benefit compared to employees who participate.

The EEOC said that its assessment was based on a program that involved answering a short health-related questionnaire, taking a blood pressure test, and providing blood for use in a blood panel screen. Information from the assessment went directly to the employee, and the employer received only aggregate information.

The letter noted that disability-related inquiries and medical examinations are permitted as part of a voluntary wellness program, and that a wellness program is voluntary if employees are neither required to participate nor penalized for non-participation


Mastroianni said such inquiries or medical examinations may be job-related and consistent with business necessity when:

  • an employer has a reasonable belief, based on objective evidence, that an employee’s ability to perform essential job functions will be impaired by a medical condition, or
  • an employee will pose a direct threat due to a medical condition.

The EEOC letter is available here .

Such risk assessments have become increasingly popular in recent years as part of employer efforts to institute consumer driven health programs (see Roping in Health Care , Wellness: Truth and Consequences ).