Healthcare is the largest industry in the American economy and includes public and private hospitals, nursing and residential care facilities, offices of physicians, dentists and other licensed practitioners, home healthcare services, outpatient care centers and other ambulatory healthcare services and medical and diagnostic laboratories. Occupations within a medical office and healthcare facilities are plenty and varied, and their rate of growth remains rapid and above average.
The list of jobs that are essential to the medical field and healthcare industry is long:
- dental hygienists
- nurses (RN, LPN, LVN)
- physician’s assistants
- social workers
- physical therapists
- medical records
- health information technicians
- clinical laboratory technologists
- diagnostic-related technicians
- emergency medical technicians
- ambulance drivers
- nursing aides
- home health aides
- orderlies and attendants
- occupational therapists
- speech-language pathologists
- medical assistants
- personal and home care aides
- medical transcriptionists
- custodial and food service workers
and those functioning in either management or administrative support roles for clinicians who provide direct services.Many of these occupations, including nursing and medical assisting, often involve potential exposure to airborne and bloodborne infectious disease, needle stick and sharps injuries, back injuries, latex allergy, stress and other dangers. Some are at risk for occupational exposure to a variety of hazardous chemicals and situations that can be physically demanding and stressful; being aware of the potential hazards in the work environment makes them less vulnerable to injury. Past reports issued by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that musculoskeletal injuries were the most common type of non-fatal injury or illness for nursing, psychiatric and home health aides who represent nearly two-thirds of all healthcare support occupations.
To safely and efficiently perform work related duties the healthcare worker must be able to physically and mentally satisfy the requisite skills and be able to perform required job related duties with or without a reasonable accommodation. Essential functions which the healthcare worker must be able to perform are based on factors such as education and job-related work experience, the reason for the position, the number of other employees available to perform the same duties or among whom the function can be shared and the degree of expertise or skill required to perform the duties.
Many healthcare establishments operate around the clock and need staff at all hours. Shift work is common in some of the above mentioned occupations. It is not uncommon for healthcare workers hold more than one part-time job, of which each one comes with unique challenges and health hazards. Healthcare workers, especially nurses, clinical laboratory workers and medical assistants, face unique situations at work of which some may pose safety concerns. Medical office and healthcare facility workplace settings typically involve direct patient care with invasive procedures, exposure to body fluids, handling bio-hazardous materials in a fast-paced setting. Errors and oversights due to the demanding nature of duties may result in health or safety consequences.
Exclusion Due to Disability
If a job requirement excludes a healthcare worker, including a medical assistant working under the direct supervision of a doctor, from a position due to a disability, the requirement must be job-related and consistent with business necessity. Some requirements will obviously meet this standard, such as licenses required by state and/or local governments for doctors and other healthcare professionals. In other instances, however, an employer may need to consider whether the standard that is excluding an individual with a disability from employment accurately predicts the individual’s ability to perform the job’s essential functions.
Many states and localities have disability anti-discrimination laws and agencies responsible for enforcing those laws. EEOC refers to these agencies as “Fair Employment Practices Agencies" (FEPAs). Individuals may file a charge with either the EEOC or a FEPA. If a charge filed with a FEPA is also covered under the ADA, the FEPA will “dual file” the charge with the EEOC but usually will retain the charge for investigation. If an ADA charge filed with the EEOC is also covered by a state or local disability discrimination law, the EEOC will “dual file” the charge with the FEPA but usually will retain the charge for investigation.
Healthcare job applicants or employees who believe that their employment rights have been violated on the basis of disability by a private sector, state government, or local government can file a Charge of Discrimination proceeding with the EEOC. The charge must be filed by mail or in person with a local EEOC office within 180 days from the date of the alleged violation.