What is Fit for Duty Testing?


According to OSHA, fit for duty means that an individual is in a physical, mental, and emotional state which enables the employee to perform the essential tasks of his or her work assignment in a manner which does NOT threaten the safety or health of oneself, co-workers, property, or the public at large.

Fit for duty tests are sometimes required by employers in order to gauge whether an employee is able to safely perform essential job functions. They also happens to be a good way to avoid workers’ compensation claims by identifying an at-risk employee prior to placement.

The at-risk individual is anyone who is physically unready or unable to perform essential job functions. Fit for duty exams can identify and protect these persons from injury and employers from their next workers’ compensation claim.

There are several different tests that fall into the fit for duty exam category, including:

  • Post-offer, pre-placement testing allows employers to, once a bona fide offer has been offered and accepted, collect information on the candidate to determine their safe work ability which can include medical information. Objective evidence of pre-existing conditions that establish imminent risk if placed or inability to safely perform job functions can be documented and the offer could be rescinded to protect the at-risk employee. If a disability is present, the testing helps to establish if accommodations are present that would allow the employee to be successful in the job.
  • Post-employment fit for duty testing provides information on work-related deficits and provides the employer an opportunity to intervene before an injury occurs.
  • Return to work (RTW): a program combining transitional duties and company policy so that an injured employee can return to work as soon as they are able to perform meaningful and productive work in any capacity. This test can also be administered when a physician provides a medical release for the injured worker to return to work without restrictions.

Are Fit for Duty Exams Legal?

Employers do have a legal right to perform fitness for duty exams according to the EEOC’s Uniform Guidelines to Employee Selection Procedures. And keep in mind that according to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), you cannot discriminate against hiring a qualified worker with a disability; however, their disability cannot prevent them from doing the essential functions of the job with or without a reasonable accommodation.

The EEOC states that existing employees can be required to participate in fit for duty testing if:

  • There is reliable objective evidence of an employee having difficulty performing essential functions of their job.
  • There is reasonable suspicion the employee has a medical condition that limits their ability to safely perform essential job functions.
  • The employee is returning to work after a leave of absence.
  • The employee requests an accommodation.

The goal of fitness for duty exams is to determine whether a worker is up to the physical demands of a position. Employers need to protect the employee and themselves by doing their due diligence to determine if a worker can safely perform the physical demands of a job – or risk a work related injury that could have easily been avoided.

If you would like more information about what Job Ready Services offers to reduce your Workers’ Comp exposure and save your business money, feel free to give us a call at 919-256-1400 or send us an email here.