A reader writes:
With the help of your blog, I accepted an entry-level job as a scientist for a consulting firm within a few months of graduating college. Thank you for your sound advice, and keep it coming!
I have a question about pre-employment physicals. After I accepted my offer, I worked with HR to set up an exam. I understand the need to check for drugs and alcohol, and to rule out any pre-existing conditions that may prevent me from doing the job in which I was hired. I will be working outside in all weather conditions and probably need to carry some heavier equipment. I also risk exposure to contaminants on the job, since I will be conducting assessments for sites that need remediation. But I am amazed at the pre-employment medical questionnaire that the HR representative emailed me, and asked me to bring to the physical.
According to the paperwork, my physical will include a chest x-ray; the medical questionnaire I must fill out; blood/urine analysis; height and weight; MD exam; pulmonary function test; vital signs; EKG; vision and audiometry; and drug screen collection and breath alcohol tests.
The questionnaire is 12 pages long. You read that right. Twelve pages. It includes every medical (and non-medical) question you can imagine. I have to provide my social security number, how often I wear a seat belt, any current and past medical conditions, the full health history of my parents and family members (which includes detailed questions and asks specifically about if/how they died), any past exposure to…well, anything. It’s unbelievably detailed and over-reaching, in my opinion. I am in my mid-20’s and healthy. I know I am fit for the job, that is not my concern. I just don’t know why questions like, “Have your job duties changed recently?” “If you get a cold, does it usually go to your chest?” “Have you ever encountered improper lighting on your job?” and “Do you have any sexual difficulty?” are relevant to a pre-employment physical. Companies do not need to know all that personal information, so I’m a bit amazed at this exam (chest x-ray?) and paperwork.
Is this standard practice at environmental firms, or should I be concerned about the insurance company they are using? Is the insurance company “phishing” for pre-existing conditions so they will not have to pay for them later? Is the company covering their assets? If I don’t fill out everything on the sheet, the company will probably rescind my offer. But I feel like this is too much. Am I overreacting, or is there something bigger going on here? How would you go about filling out the questionnaire?
I suspect that they’re doing it for two reasons: (1) to make sure they’re not putting you in conditions that for medical reasons you shouldn’t be in, and (2) so that in case you file a worker’s comp claim or sue them in the future, alleging that your working conditions caused you any medical problems, they’ll have a medical history to evaluate. (In other words, if you report right now that you have back problems, you won’t be able to successfully collect against them later for causing you back problems.)
I agree with you that it’s invasive, but I suspect it’s tied to the nature of the work you’ll be doing.
Anyone have more experience in this than I do and want to weigh in?