Employee’s Hostile Conduct Was Objective Basis For Personality Test

By Ted Olsen

An employer lawfully required an employee to undergo a psychiatric/psychological fitness-for-duty examination because of his obstreperous conduct with management and Human Resources personnel and because an independent psychologist recommended such an examination due to safety concerns. The facts satisfied the Americans with Disabilities Act’s dual requirements that medical testing of an employee be “job-related” and “consistent with business necessity.” Owusu-Ansah v. Coca-Cola Co., No. 11-13663 (11th Cir. May 8, 2013).

The employee had become agitated while complaining to his supervisor of alleged on-the-job discrimination and harassment, banged his hand on the table, and shouted that someone was “going to pay for this.” Later, the employee refused to discuss his alleged discrimination concerns with his second-level manager. The employer sent the employee to an independent psychologist specializing in crisis management and threat assessment, but the employee would not cooperate with the psychologist. The psychologist recommended further testing and the employer sent the employee to a psychiatrist for an MMPI, but the employee resisted taking the test. Proclaiming that “statutory interpretation requires judges to use a little common sense,” the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the employer had reasonable, objective concerns about the employee’s mental stability, which affected his job performance and could have threatened the safety of other employees, and the concerns justified the medical examination.

The employee was right when he threatened that someone would pay for this—he did.

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