Why is the Company Asking About My Fear of Spiders? A New Look at Evaluating Whether an Employer-Provided Personality Test Constitutes a Medical Examination Under the ADA

This note explores whether a personality test constitutes a medical examination under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). Many modern-day employers use personality tests as a recruiting tool to save time and money in the hiring process. Unfortunately, some personality tests jeopardize the rights of individuals under the ADA. Specifically, certain tests threaten to reveal disabilities that should otherwise remain confidential. The judicial response to the question of whether personality tests constitute a prohibited medical examination under the ADA has been mixed. Some courts employ an intent-based approach that focuses more on the employer’s intended use of the examination. More recently, in Karraker v. Rent-A-Center, Inc., the Seventh Circuit developed an effect-based approach that takes seriously the threat to the rights of the disabled.After conducting a thorough analysis of the ADA’s language, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s Enforcement Guidance, the purpose of the ADA, and the relevant case law, the author concludes that both the intent-based and effect-based approaches currently employed reach improper results. The intent-based approach undermines the disabled individual’s interest in job opportunity and equality while the effects-based approach undervalues the employer’s interest in making efficient, accurate employment decisions. Thus, the author ultimately proposes the Medical Field Test, which appropriately balances the interests of employers and disabled applicants/employees and remains true to the letter and spirit of the ADA.

The full text of this Note is available to download as a PDF.