The Impact of Applicant Medical Information on the Job Application Process

The Impact of Applicant Medical Information on the Job Application Process


When employers interview job applicants, they typically consider an array of factors, including experience, education, skills, and personal qualities. However, one under-recognized aspect of the recruitment process is the disclosure of medical information. While employers may request medical information to ensure the safety of their workforce, such inquiries have raised concerns about privacy and discrimination. This blog post examines the impact of applicant medical information on the job application process and how employers can balance their need for information with the rights of potential employees.

The Use of Medical Information in the Job Application Process

In general, employers are legally entitled to obtain medical information from job applicants in certain circumstances. For example, if the job involves physical work, the employer may need to ensure that the applicant is medically fit to carry out the tasks required. Similarly, if the position requires the use of dangerous equipment or hazardous materials, the employer may need assurances that the applicant is not impaired by any medical conditions that could increase their risk of accidents or injuries. In most cases, employers must limit their inquiries to job-related issues and must ensure that all information obtained is kept confidential.

However, despite these legal constraints, concerns have been raised that employers may misuse medical information during the recruitment process. For example, an employer may reject an applicant because they have a history of mental health issues or substance abuse, even if these conditions are irrelevant to the job requirements. Such practices not only violate employment laws but can also perpetuate stigmatization and discrimination against individuals with disabilities.

Examples of Discrimination based on Medical Information

The use of medical information in the recruitment process has led to a number of instances of discrimination against candidates. A notable example is the case of Gregorio Reyes, who applied for a job as a bus driver in California. Despite having an excellent driving record and being highly qualified, Reyes was rejected based on medical records indicating that he had once been diagnosed with tuberculosis. Reyes’s case brought to light the fact that medical history can be used to unfairly discriminate against job candidates, even when the information is not relevant to the job.

Another example is the case of an individual with type 1 diabetes who was rejected from a job as an airline pilot. In this case, the employer argued that the applicant’s illness posed a safety risk and that the company was not required to provide reasonable accommodation to allow the applicant to perform the job. The applicant sued the company and won, setting an important legal precedent that has protected the rights of job candidates with disabilities.

Mitigating Risks Associated with Medical Information Disclosure

To avoid the risks associated with medical information disclosure, employers should adopt a series of best practices. First and foremost, employers should only request medical information when it is directly relevant to the job requirements. Moreover, any such requests should be made after the job offer has been issued, as doing so before can violate anti-discrimination laws and jeopardize the recruitment process.

Additionally, employers should take great caution in how they handle medical information obtained during the recruitment process. This includes having appropriate safeguards to protect the confidentiality of the information. Only relevant personnel should be given access to the information, and it should be kept separate from other hiring information.

Finally, employers should ensure that their hiring practices do not violate anti-discrimination laws. This means that medical information should be used only for job-related purposes and not to discriminate against candidates based on disabilities, mental health, or other reasons.


Medical information can be a valuable tool for employers during the recruitment process, particularly when it relates to job requirements and safety concerns. However, employers must use this information carefully and in compliance with anti-discrimination laws. If used improperly, medical information can result in unfair and discriminatory practices that harm job candidates and businesses alike. Employers should adopt best practices to protect the privacy and rights of job applicants while ensuring that they have the information they need to make informed hiring decisions.

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