Can a employer (fire dept) require employees to pass a health assessment if it was not required at the time of hire?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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Can a employer (fire dept) require employees to pass a health assessment if it was not required at the time of hire?

In other words, a fit for duty test. It wasn’t required when hired 15 years ago but now they are saying everyone has to pass if you don’t you are terminated. Problem is I have heart defect I was born with so pretty much if found which it will be they could come back and say I’m not fit and term me. Is there anything I can do since its a defect I was born with and not something I control?

Asked on December 11, 2015 under Employment Labor Law, Kansas


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

1) No law says that an employer can't impose a health assessment or fitness test later; there's no requirement that it only be at the start of employment or not at all.
2) If you don't have an employment contract (a written one), you are an employee at will and, with very few exceptions, may be fired at any time, for any reason.
3) One of the exceptions is that an employer may not terminate someone simply for having a medical condition. But they can terminate if the employee cannot safely do the job due to the condition. So say you are IT, or a clerk, or an accountant, or customer service, etc.--a heart defect does not pose any particular risk and they should not be able to terminate you But say that you are a delivery person for furniture, a utility lineman, a paramedic or other first responder, or a warehouse staffer who must be able to move heavy objects or pallets--in those cases, if the defect materially (to some significant degree) raises or increases the risk of you having a heat attack, stroke, etc., then they likely could terminate you, since the employer is not required to take a credible risk of an employee dying on the job, which can expose the employer to liability and, in some cases, endanger other employees (e.g. if you were carrying something heavy with another and then collapsed suddenly).

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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