Can an Employer Ask What Your Medical Condition Is?

Can an Employer Ask What Your Medical Condition Is – Overview

Employers must make decisions without regard to medical conditions in compliance with laws that protect employees against discrimination based on health status. The fear of how the medical condition will affect an employee’s ability to work or the cost of reasonable adjustments is complicated and daunting for most employers.

So, understandably, employers would want to know if you have any medical conditions beforehand. However, it can be quite confronting and discomforting for employees with a medical condition to disclose such private information.

Generally, medical conditions are considered protected characteristics, and employers are not allowed to discriminate against employees because of their medical problems. Employers must understand what is expected of them to avoid breaking labor or corporate laws.

Though it is essential to abide by the law, some medical conditions are difficult to discuss. Hence, employers need to be sensitive to the needs of such employees, in addition to the legal requirements.

What Can an Employer Ask About an Employee’s Medical Condition

Can an Employer Ask What Your Medical Condition Is

What Can an Employer Ask About an Employee’s Medical Condition?

Employers can ask questions that help them decide if they need to make any special considerations. For instance, this may involve:

  • Creating an adaptable work environment
  • Ensuring flexibility in the work day (more frequent breaks or remote-working options)
  • Additional resources to help employees perform their jobs well

Such questions are usually asked for monitoring purposes and may include questions relating to recent absences and how the employee is adjusting to the current work arrangements.

Employers can only inquire about an employee’s ability to perform job-related functions. They may not ask directly about medical conditions unless it is to accommodate the employee’s specific job-related requirements.

What Can’t an Employer Ask About Your Medical Condition

An employer cannot ask a medical professional for any employee’s medical records, including information about an employee’s health, without the employee’s express permission. Even then, the employee has the right to check and approve the medical records before passing them on to the employer.

Employers are prohibited from requesting employees disclose personal information about any health problems that arise during their employment. On the other hand, employees may choose to volunteer to disclose health information. In this case, the employer must make reasonable adjustments to support the employee’s will and ability to work.

Can an Employer Ask About Your Medical Condition During Recruitment

No, during recruitment, employers can only ask about an applicant’s ability to perform essential job functions and may not inquire about medical conditions unless making accommodations for the application process. Though the recruitment stage is ideal for knowing everything about a new employee, this is unacceptable under recruitment regulations. Additionally, employers are not allowed to ask questions about the number of sick days taken at the candidate’s previous place of employment.

However, there are exceptions to this rule. For instance, an employer can ask questions about an employee’s ability to be assessed and highlight any adjustments the candidate may require for a fair assessment. Exceptions to general prohibitions on health-related inquiries are permitted when directly related to an essential job function, requiring candidates to demonstrate their ability to perform with or without reasonable accommodation.

What Protects the Privacy of an Employee

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in the U.S., or similar legislation such as the Equality Act 2010 in the UK, protects employees from discrimination based on disabilities and requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations.

The employee is protected by law from questions about their medical conditions. However, the employer can ask questions about an employee’s medical conditions if they can demonstrate a valid reason for doing so.

Suppose an employee feels that questions about their medical conditions were asked for discriminatory purposes or as an invasion of privacy. In that case, the employee can even seek legal action against the employer.

Hence, employers need to take extra care and only ask questions they can justify if the need arises. On the other hand, employees should be extra careful to answer only questions they feel comfortable with. Often, people can accidentally volunteer more information than needed.

Who Should an Employee Talk to About Their Medical Condition?

Though discussing a medical problem with an employer may sound awkward, it is highly recommended to let them know of anything they directly need to know. There could be different reasons why an employee may want to disclose or discuss their medical conditions with their employees, such as:

  • Need for reasonable adjustments to perform the job responsibilities well.
  • Symptoms or conditions may require help, such as seizures, allergies, etc.
  • Any regular stressor that may trigger your medical condition.
  • Need for emotional support from someone frequently.

Regardless of why you want to share your health details at work, deciding who you can talk to can take time. According to experts, the best people for an employee to speak to about their medical conditions are:

  • Direct managers
  • Occupational health advisors
  • Trade unions
  • HR managers

In many cases, it may be beneficial for an employee to share details of their medical condition with their employer voluntarily.


Surveys indicate a significant portion of employees may be hesitant to disclose medical conditions to employers, often due to concerns about discrimination or potential job loss, underscoring the importance of confidentiality and legal protections.

So, employers need to follow the law. Any medical condition should be stored in a securely locked place where a non-authorized person, including employers, cannot access it. Employers also have the right to ask for proof of medical certificates of the medical condition, including fitness notes, if necessary.

See Also

Medical Conditions Qualify for Long Term Disability

Signs That You Will Be Approved for Disability

Social Security Disability Benefits Pay Chart

What to do When an Employer Terminates Health Insurance Without Notice

Grants for Employers

Follow us