Business of Medicine

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Legal Alert: Age-Related Fitness for Duty Exams Lawsuit

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February 13, 2020

As the U.S. workforce seeks to continue employment longer than ever before, many practices and hospitals are considering “fitness for duty” exams for some staff and physicians who work beyond the standard retirement age. Several large, prestigious healthcare systems have implemented policies about sending these employees and physicians for cognitive testing and eye exams before allowing them to continue to provide clinical care. Patient safety is often cited as the reason for these medical evaluations.

Earlier this week, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a lawsuit against Yale New Haven Hospital for age and disability discrimination. In the suit, the EEOC attorney pointed out that the hospital’s policy requires any physician over 70 who wants to renew their privileges to take a neuropsychological and eye exam, while not requiring that for anyone under age 70. The EEOC said that those subject to the policy are required to be tested solely because of their age, without any suspicion that their neuropsychological ability may have declined. The EEOC alleges that by subjecting only these older hospital applicants and employees to the policy, the hospital violates the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) because they aresubjecting employees to medical examinations that are not job-related and consistent with business necessity.” 

According to the documents on the EEOC website, they attempted a pre-litigation settlement with the hospital seeking compensatory and punitive damages as well as injunctive relief, which includes the elimination of the policy. Pre-settlement discussions were not successful, so the lawsuit was filed.

If your organization has a similar “fitness for duty” policy in place, you may want to look at the language used in light of this litigation.

MagMutual will continue to monitor the progress of this case and will provide updates as more information becomes available.

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The information provided in this resource does not constitute legal, medical or any other professional advice, nor does it establish a standard of care. This resource has been created as an aid to you in your practice. The ultimate decision on how to use the information provided rests solely with you, the PolicyOwner.