New Jersey Law

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Employer Fails to Meet Required Standards for Psychological Fitness-For-Duty Exam

The Appellate Court ruled for the first time in NJ that it was a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act to order an employee to undergo a psychological fitness for duty examination without objective credible evidence that an exam was justified by business necessity.

In the Matter of Paul Williams, Township of Lakewood, A-0341-15T2 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 2016) The Township ordered Williams to undergo a psychological fitness for duty examination eight months after receiving an anonymous letter, supposedly from a concerned employee, stating that they were concerned with Williams’ mental well-being which put the other employees at risk. The Township took no action to investigate the allegations contained in the letter. Williams did not attend the examination and he was fired. The Administrative Law Judge reversed the Township’s termination concluding that the Township’s demand that appellant undergo a psychological examination was not “reasonably related” to his job duties and was not “consistent with business necessity” as required under the ADA. The Commission reversed the ALJ’s determination on the basis that he was insubordinate for failing to attend the examinations.

The Appellate Division reversed, opining that the Township lacked the authority under the ADA to order Williams to undergo a psychological fitness for duty examination. The Court referred to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s regulations that state an employer cannot require an employee to undergo medical examination, which includes a psychological fitness for duty examination if they do not serve a legitimate business purpose. The Court held that to be lawful under the ADA, the examination must be “job-related and consistent with business necessity,” which is when an employer “has a reasonable belief, either through direct observation or through reliable information from credible sources, that an employee’s perceived mental state will either 1) affect his or her ability to perform essential job functions or 2) the employee poses a direct threat.” The Court emphasized that an employer’s “reasonable belief” must be based on objective evidence prior to requiring the medical examination and cannot be based on general assumptions. The Court reinstated Williams to his position with full back pay.

For more information about this case or other Labor and Employment matters, please contact Richard P. Flaum, Esq at rflaum@newjerseylaw.net



CATEGORIES: Employment Law

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