For more information please call  800.727.2766


ADA Does Not Require Employee to Pay for MRI

Russell Holt was offered a job with BNSF Railway Company as a Senior Patrol Officer provided he complete a post-offer medical review. During the medical review, Mr. Holt disclosed that he had injured his back some four years before, resulting in a spinal disc issue. His doctor, his chiropractor, and the doctor hired by BNSF all concluded that Mr. Holt would not have any limitations from his back injury. However, BNSF wanted to be certain that there would be no further problems and thus demanded Mr. Holt undergo an MRI at his own expense if he wanted the job. Mr. Holt could not afford an MRI and BNSF withdrew its offer of employment.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reviewed whether BNSF had violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA allows for post-offer medical examinations that are job-related and/or consistent with business necessity. The first step was to determine whether Mr. Holt was disabled within the meaning of the statute. An individual “regarded as” having a disability is protected under the ADA if the action was taken against them because of an actual or perceived impairment. The circuit court concluded that BNSF’s request for an MRI showed that the company assumed that he had a back condition that disqualified him from the job. It treated him as an applicant with a disability, as reflected in the revocation of his job offer.
Demanding that an employee undertake the cost of an MRI or lose his job based on a perceived back impairment was discriminatorily imposed. The high cost of an MRI would disqualify many qualified individuals. Although BNSF was entitled to require follow-up medical examinations to complete its medical information, the statute does not require that cost be imposed on the employee. Employers may not impose additional financial burdens on a person with a disability because of the disability