Employee medical privacy is protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA. It is not permissible for an employer to ask about employees' medical information, including prescription medication usage, unless the inquiry is job-related and consistent with a business necessity of the employer.
The ADA protects job applicants from having to disclose their medical information, including prescription medication usage, to a prospective employer. Therefore, an interviewer may not ask a job applicant about any medical conditions they have or what prescription medications they are taking. The only inquiry that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission indicates is allowable is whether an applicant believes he is capable of performing the job duties.
An employer may make a medical inquiry about an employee's prescription drug usage, but only if the employer's need to know is related to the employee's job and consistent with business necessity. For example, if an employee is behaving in a dangerous or unusual manner, the employer may inquire about whether the employee has any health conditions or medications affecting their conduct.
It is permissible for an employer of public health and safety personnel, such as firefighters and police officers, to require periodic medical testing of the employees. These medical inquiries can take the form of a physical examination by the employer's doctor or a review of the employee's medical and pharmacy records. In addition to emergency personnel, federal regulations require vehicle drivers in safety-sensitive positions and pilots to disclose medication usage.
Even if you are required to provide information about your prescription drug usage to your employer, the employer is required to protect your privacy. Therefore, federal regulations require all employers to maintain any employee medical documentation in a separate file and maintain strict confidentiality. Violations of these rules may result in civil liability for the employer.
- U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: Pre-Employment Inquiries and Medical Questions & Examinations
- U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: Enforcement Guidance: Disability-Related Inquiries and Medical Examinations of Employees Under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)
- Workplace Fairness: Medical Privacy
- Society for Human Resource Management: Medical Inquiries: Can an Employer ask Employees What Type of Medication They are Taking and Why?
Kevin Owen has been a professional writer since 2005. He served as an editor for the American Bar Association's "Administrative Law Review." Owen is an employment litigator in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area and practices before various state and federal trial and appellate courts. He earned his Juris Doctor from American University.