Do Not Pass Go Until You Prove Damages: Medical Inquiry Claims


By: Jennifer Miller
The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit recently ruled that in order for an employee to state a claim under a provision of ADA, which generally prohibits employers from making medical inquiries, the employee must prove damages or an injury.
Specifically, in Russell v. City of Mobile Police Department, 2014 WL 114128 (11th Cir. Jan. 14, 2014), plaintiff claimed her employer violated the ADA, and in particular 42 U.S.C. § 1211(d)(4)(A), when it “engaged in an improper medical inquiry.”  In addressing this claim, the Court recognized that it had previously only held that a plaintiff must show damages or an injury in order to succeed on a claim brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1211(d)(2)(A), a provision of the ADA that prohibits medical inquiries of job applicants.  However, because these provisions were nearly identical—except one applies to employees and the other to job applicants—the Court in Russell expressly extended its prior holding to claims brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1211(d)(4)(A).  Consequently, for an employee to succeed on a claim brought under this provision the employee must show damages.
Significantly, in Russell, this requirement proved to be determinative.  The Court held that, based on the record, there was no evidence that any of the effects the plaintiff claimed to have suffered, including feeling faint and suffering from depression, were related to the alleged medical inquiry.   As such, the Court held that summary judgment in the employer’s favor was proper.