Consider this: your company-a local manufacturer-is hiring workers at a rapid pace to keep up with your production demands. You require only a drug screen prior to hiring because you've heard it was a good thing to do. Just days after an employee is hired, he reports a back injury to you, and you later find out the employee has had multiple workers' compensation claims. Because of state laws, you're still responsible for an "exacerbation of a pre-existing condition." To add to your dilemma, not only did you later find out about the pre-existing condition, but the surgeon who treated the worker previously stated in a deposition he doesn't believe the employee was fit to perform the physical demands of your required work in the first place.
The question of whether to invest in pre-employment-actually post-offer-physicals and other testing is difficult for many employers. Fearing increasing costs in the hiring process, many don't perform post-offer physicals and functional testing to determine a match between the worker's abilities and the required work demands. This leaves many employers out in the cold paying for old injuries or new injuries caused by a lack of congruency between the worker's abilities and the job's physical demands.
In fairness to employers, the medical community hasn't always helped in the decision process. While any physician can perform post-offer physicals, not all physicals are created equal. Some companies have used post-offer physicals and other testing only to have no one screened out or even questioned about their suitability to safely perform the required work. Others learn they've been paying for unwarranted testing for years and weren't counseled by the provider about the appropriateness of such screening.
Other employers conducting post-offer physicals see the financial benefits. These services can prevent hiring people incapable of performing work they require. The results include fewer workers compensation claims, a safer work environment, and less employee turnover. Keys to a successful program are:
- Understanding the physical demands of your work and giving them to the medical provider in writing. If you don't know what the demands are, ask your medical provider for assistance in determining them.
- Screening your medical providers carefully. Make sure they have experience providing similar services to industry and understand ADA implications. Ask their references if there have been people screened out of the hiring process for legitimate reasons. If no potential employee has been screened out or questioned by a provider, research more providers.
- Reviewing your policies for ADA compliance and staying consistent with your human resource policies. The provider can offer valuable information and advise you about the potential employee's fitness to do the work and options for accommodation, but the decision to hire is yours.
The likelihood of saving money and positively impacting your work environment may lie with post-offer screening. Developing the protocols and nurturing a relationship with the right medical provider greatly enhances these opportunities. IBI