Order That Worker Undergo Psychiatric Counseling Violates Federal Discrimination Laws

The Americans With Disabilities Act (the “ADA”) and the Americans With Disabilities Act Amendments Act (“ADAAA”) provide much needed protections for certain “qualified individuals” to ensure they do not suffer job discrimination as the result of a disability or perceived disability.

The ADA also prohibits disability harassment and retaliation against you for complaining about disability discrimination or for participating in someone else’s disability discrimination case.

However, not all injuries, illnesses or even medically defined disabilities are covered by the ADA and the ADAAA. The ADA projects a specific class of individuals-qualified individuals with a disability. A qualified individual with a disability is an individual with any medical, physiological, or psychiatric condition that substantially limits a major life activity. If you have questions about whether you are covered by the ADA/ADAAA it’s a good idea to meet with an experienced Georgia disability discrimination lawyer to discuss your matter.

The ADA/ADAAA provides a variety of protections, including prohibiting employers from requiring employees undergo medical exams to determine “whether such employee is an individual with a disability or as to the nature or severity of the disability, unless such examination or inquiry is shown to be job-related and consistent with business necessity.”

A recent case from the 6th Circuit determined that the rights of an ambulance driver were violated when the ambulance agency required that she attended psychological counseling. In Kroll v. White Lake Ambulance Auth., a female ambulance drive – Emily Kroll – began working for WLAA as an emergency medical technician in 2003. Shortly after, her supervisor began receiving reports of agency employees’ concerns about Kroll’s well being after she became romantically involved with a co-worker. The agency also received a complaint that she had screamed at a “male acquaintance” on the phone while driving a vehicle that contained a patient and was in emergency status. A supervisor told Kroll she needed to attend counseling to continue working. However, she refused due to the out of pocket costs and left her job. Kroll then sued the agency under the ADA asserting that forcing her to attend counseling violated ADA’s prohibition against requiring medical examinations.

The court looked to the EEOC for guidance, which defines “medical examination” as a “procedure or test that seeks information about an individual’s physical or mental impairments or health” and provides seven factors for assessing whether a test amounts to a “medical examination.” Those factors include whether the test is administered by a health care professional, is interpreted by such a professional, is aimed to reveal a physical or mental health impairment, is invasive, measures an employee’s performance of a task or physiological responses to such performance, is typically given in a medical setting, or involves medical equipment.

A single factor “may be enough” to find that a test is medical.

Based on an analysis looking at all of these factors, the court found that it was possible a jury could determine the agency violated Kroll’s rights.

For more information about the ADA/ADAAA or if you believe you may have been discriminated against based on a disability, please contact the top Georgia disability attorneys at Buckley Bala Wilson Mew LLP for an immediate case evaluation.