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African American couple consulting with a doctor

Overbroad Medical inquiries

Use of Information from Overbroad Medical Inquiries

The Minnesota Supreme Court, in Huisenga v. Opus Corp., et al, 494 N.W. 2d 469 (Minn. 1992), recognized that employer inquiries, which are not tailored to the requirement of the job in question, are not permitted under the Minnesota Human Rights Act. (MHRA) The Huisenga case was brought under the state's workers' compensation statutes, and the Court's decision centered around its interpretation of the MHRA. The court, in its decision, stated:

Today, we address the question of whether an employer may avoid paying benefits when a job applicant or employee makes a false representation regarding health or physical condition in a response to a question posed by the employer which requests health and medical information unrelated to the tasks of the job and it thus is prohibited by the Minnesota Human Rights Act...

Lund Martins' inquiries regarding prior worker's compensation claims of an employee or applicant also stray from the mark. We do not see how asking if an employee or applicant has ever received workers' compensation benefits can survive the requirements of the MHRA. A person could have been previously injured in the workplace in a fashion completely irrelevant to the requirements for the job in question. Yet, the questionnaire clearly asks an applicant or employee to divulge information regarding not only the claims, which go to the essence of the job, but also those which do not. Probing into the health history and disabilities of an applicant or employee in this fashion is not permitted under the MHRA unless the inquiries are tailored to the requirements of the job in question. The general nature of the question indicates that no such tailoring effort was made here...

The MHRA could not be more clear in stating that questions regarding health and disability may only be asked if they test essential job-related abilities. These did not. Furthermore, we believe that overreaching invites deceit...

When making inquiries of job applicants or employees, employers may do so only in methods which comply with the provisions of the MHRA. If they stray from the mandates and prohibitions of the MHRA, their reliance on the resulting information is from a poisoned tree...

~ Stated the court, in its decision.

The Huisenqa decision holds that discrimination will be found to have occurred when improperly requested information, either obtained by or withheld from an employer, becomes a factor in a subsequently made, adverse employment decision concerning the job applicant or employee. Such discrimination is distinguished from the violation of making the improper request, itself.

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