EEOC Files Suit Targeting Employment Application “Health History”
On March 22, 2016, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) filed suit in the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri against Grisham Farm Products, Inc. alleging that its employment application violated the Americans With Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act (“GINA”).Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Grisham Farm Products, Inc. 16-cv-03105. According to the EEOC’s Complaint, Grisham
violated the ADA and GINA by requiring job applicants . . . to fill out a three-page ‘Health History’ before they would be considered for a job.
Plaintiff applied for a warehouse position at Grisham. The application contained 43 “yes or no” health-related questions. The questions were ones that might be seen when visiting a physician for the first time. For example, the EEOC’s Complaint alleges that the application inquired whether in the past 10 years, the applicant had (alphabetically) allergies, arthritis, bladder infections, eating disorders, gallstones, sexually transmitted diseases, etc. The form also inquired about prior hospitalizations, HIV infection, treatment for alcoholism, and whether the applicant “consulted a doctor, chiropractor, therapist, or other health care provider in the past 24 months.”
The application’s Health History section stated in large letters that:
All question must be answered before we can process your application.
According to the EEOC, after answering the first question, plaintiff stopped. Plaintiff had medical conditions and disabilities he would have revealed had he fully and completely answered each question. The EEOC claims that the plaintiff believed he did not have to reveal his medical history to any potential employer. As such, he telephoned Grisham Farm and a company representative with whom he spoke said that if the health history was not fully completed, it would not accept his Application. Accordingly to the Complaint, Sullivan refused to complete the health history.
In addition to requesting a permanent injunction against Grisham Farm from making any pre-employment medical inquiries, the EEOC suit seeks monetary and punitive damages for the plaintiff.
In a statement issued in conjunction with the filing of the Complaint, the EEOC referred to the health form as being “among the most egregious we have seen.” This case should serve as a reminder to employers that pre-employment health inquiries can be made only after a conditional offer has been made, if the inquiries are made to all applicants for that job category, and provided the inquiries are job-related and consistent with business necessity.