A Fit-for-Duty Exam: What is It and When Should an Employer Request One?  

Fit for Duty in the Workplace

Fit-for-duty exams are a way for employers to ensure that their employees are physically capable of working. They are often confused with a post offer employment test. While these two exams are similar, and often have the same components, they are used in separate ways. 

What is a Fit for Duty Exam? 

A fit-for-duty exam is a type of examination that is used to determine whether an employee can perform the essential functions of their job. This type of examination can be requested by an employer for a variety of reasons, such as when an employee has been out on leave for a prolonged period, an employee has been injured, or if there are concerns about the employee’s ability to perform their job safely.  

fit for duty exams

When Should an Employer Request a Fit-for-Duty Exam? 

An employer should request a fit-for-duty exam when they have concerns about an employee’s ability to perform the essential functions of their job safely. For instance, if an employee has been out on leave for a prolonged period, the employer may request a fit-for-duty exam before allowing the employee to return to work. This is done to ensure that the employee is still able to perform their job safely and effectively. 

Another reason to request a fit-for-duty exam is if there has been a change in an employee’s ability to perform his or her job safely. For example, if an employee has been involved in several accidents at work or if there is a change in the employee’s health, the employer may request a fit-for-duty exam to determine if the employee is still able to safely perform their job. 

Finally, a fit-for-duty exam is often performed after an employee has previously been on restrictions from an injury. This can be either from a work-related or personal injury. Many times, this is done to ensure the employee is healed and fully ready to return to work once the restrictions have been lifted by the treating healthcare provider.  

ADA Guidelines with Fit-for-Duty Tests 

There are some guidelines that need to be followed when performing fit-for-duty exams to keep you out of a lawsuit. Blanket fitness-for-duty exams following medical leaves are not permissible under the ADA.  

For an employer to require an employee to submit to a fitness for duty examination, the employer must have evidence that either the employee’s ability to do their job is impaired or that the employee might hurt someone because of their medical condition.  

fit for duty exams

The exam’s primary purpose is not to determine if the employee has a disability or how severe it may be, but to gain information about the disability that will help decide if the employee can do their job well and without risks. 

If an employer has concerns about an employee’s ability to do their job because of a medical condition, the employer can require a fit for duty exam. The employer must have first-hand knowledge of the medical condition, observed behaviors that relate to the performance of the employee’s job duties, and be able to attribute the concerns reasonably and rationally to the medical condition. 

Essential Functions of the Job 

The first step in determining if an employee can perform the essential functions of their job is to identify what those essential functions are. Essential functions are the basic duties that are required for the successful completion of a job. For instance, if an employee’s job requires them to lift heavy objects, then lifting would be considered an essential function of the job. Once the essential functions of the job have been identified, the employer can then determine whether the employee is able to perform those functions.  

A Job Demands Analysis will be necessary for a fit-for-duty exam to be completed. If you have not had a job analysis done to identify the essential functions and physical demands, then WorkSafe Physical Therapy can help! 

Post Offer Employment Test vs Fit-For-Duty Test 

These tests are often designed to have the same testing components, but there is a key difference. A physical ability test or post offer employment test is done on every new employee that is hired. This is to ensure the employee that is being hired is physically capable of performing the job.  

fit for duty

In contrast, a fit-for-duty test is done once an employee has been working with the company and there is an objective reason to re-test this employee as described above.  

Fit-for-Duty Exams at WorkSafe Physical Therapy 

A fit-for-duty exam is a type of examination that is used to determine whether an employee can perform the essential functions of their job. This type of examination can be requested by an employer for a variety of reasons, such as when an employee has been out on leave for a prolonged period or if there are concerns about the employee’s ability to perform their job safely.  

If you need a fit-for-duty exam for an employee, contact us today at WorkSafe Physical Therapy. We can help you determine if it is appropriate and perform the examination! 

Contact WorkSafe Physical Therapy to find out how we can help your company


Working to keep you safe, healthy, and productive,

worksafe wichita ks