The Rhode Island Fair Employment Practices Act prohibits employment practices that discriminate on the basis of an actual or perceived disability or genetic test results. A separate state law prohibits discrimination based on actual or perceived acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) (RI Gen. Laws Sec. 23-6.3-11, Sec. 28-5-1 et seq.). The Act covers employers with four or more employees, except that the provision prohibiting discrimination based on genetic test results applies to all employers, regardless of size. The state law prohibiting discrimination based on an actual or perceived positive test result for HIV infection also applies to all employers.
ADA compared. The federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) permits employers to condition an offer of employment on the results of an applicant's physical exam, but only if the exam is required of all applicants in similar jobs. The ADA covers employers with 15 or more employees.
Tip: In order to avoid liability, Rhode Island employers should comply with ADA guidelines and only request a physical examination after a conditional offer of employment has been made.
Qualification standards. Under a ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, when an employer denies employment because of a medical qualification standard, it must prove that (1) the standard "fairly and accurately measures the individual's actual ability" to perform the essential functions of the job in question, and (2) there is no reasonable accommodation that would allow the applicant to safely perform the job (Bates v. United Parcel Service, Inc. ,511 F.3d 974 (9th Cir. 2007)). Details of the court's decision and practical tips for employers are available.