Yin v. State of California

95 F.3d 864 (1996)
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Plaintiff, Yin, brought an action against her employer, the State of California Employment Department, to prohibit them from requiring her to release her medical records, submit to an examination, and be subject to discipline for refusing to do so. Yin had a “prolonged and egregious history of absenteeism and a record of on-the-job illnesses.” She had taken leave at “rates far in excess of the average for tax auditors” for five years before commencing the action.

Yin claimed that requiring her to submit to an unwanted medical examination would violate her rights under the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) § 12112(d)(4)(A), which states that:

A covered entity shall not require a medical examination and shall not make inquiries of an employee as to whether such employee is an individual with a disability or as to the nature or severity of the disability, unless such examination or inquiry is shown to be job-related and consistent with business necessity.

Yin also claimed the request was unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment’s proscription of unreasonable searches and seizures.

The court held that the ADA did not prohibit the State from requiring Yin to undergo the requested medical examination. The court held that the medical examination was unquestionably job-related and therefore fell within the business necessity exemption to ADA §12112(d)(4)(A). The court found no indication in the record to suggest that her supervisors were “simply trying to discover whether she suffered from a particular disability or that they harbored either a special bias against individuals with a given disability or a general bias against all persons with disabilities.” In making this determination, the court noted Yin’s “excessive absenteeism” and its effect on her productivity and overall job performance.

The court further held that “when health problems have had a substantial and injurious impact on an employee's job performance, the employer can require the employee to undergo a physical examination designed to determine his or her ability to work, even if the examination might disclose whether the employee is disabled or the extent of any disability.”

The court held that the compulsory fitness-for-duty medical examination was constitutionally valid under the Fourth Amendment’s proscription of unreasonable searches seizures. The court held that the State’s request was reasonable and therefore constitutional.

The court held that a search and seizure is not normally constitutional unless it is “pursuant to a warrant issued upon probable cause.” However, the Court further held that neither probable cause nor a warrant would be required when “special needs, beyond the normal need for law enforcement, make the warrant and probable-cause requirement impracticable.” The court stated that in “special needs cases . . . the court dispenses with the probable cause and warrant requirements and simply applies a balancing test.” The individual’s privacy expectation is weighed against the government’s interest in the search to determine whether a search or seizure is reasonable and thus constitutional. The court considered both Yin’s privacy interest and expectation of privacy and the Government’s interest in the physical examination.

  1. Yin’s privacy interest and expectation of privacy

The court held that it was “clearly dictat[ed]” by Supreme Court precedent that “any medical examination that entails a blood or urine test triggers, at a minimum, the Fourth Amendment balancing test.”

The court held that the Yin’s privacy expectation was diminished (but not extinguished) due to several factors: Yin’s status as an employee; a state statute permitting testing of civil service employees; a union contract incorporating the statute; and Yin’s record of extended and egregious absenteeism.

  1. The Government’s interest

The court held that the Government must not only have a legitimate interest in the search and seizure, but that the search and seizure in question must also further the interest.

The court held that requiring Yin to undergo an independent medical examination “would clearly further the state’s interest in assuring a productive and stable work force,” and that the search therefore served a “substantial and weighty government interest.” In addition to the decline in the Yin’s productivity, the court gave weight to the decline in the productivity and morale of the office as a whole in making this determination. The court further noted that Yin’s supervisors were unable to obtain the information from other sources, as Yin had refused to provide them with a copy of her medical records.

“There is no question that the proposed medical examination was job-related. The record clearly indicates that Yin's supervisors had good cause for trying to determine whether she was able to perform her job. Yin had missed an inordinate number of days at work. The undisputed facts show that Yin's excessive absenteeism had taken a serious and deleterious toll on her productivity and overall job performance. There is nothing in the record to suggest that her supervisors were simply trying to discover whether she suffered from a particular disability or that they harbored either a special bias against individuals with a given disability or a general bias against all persons with disabilities. Moreover, according to the record before us, there is no doubt that Yin's supervisors' ultimate purpose was only to try to determine whether Yin was capable of doing her job.” 95 F.3d, p. 868.

“We conclude that when health problems have had a substantial and injurious impact on an employee's job performance, the employer can require the employee to undergo a physical examination designed to determine his or her ability to work, even if the examination might disclose whether the employee is disabled or the extent of any disability.” 95 F.3d, p. 868.

“The medical test at issue here, if justified at all, ‘serves special governmental needs [] beyond the normal need for law enforcement ...’ Thus, we reject Yin's claim that the state must secure a search warrant before requiring her to submit to a medical examination.” 95 F.3d, p. 869.

“Requiring someone to submit to a medical examination invades an expectation of privacy that ‘society is prepared to consider reasonable,’ . . . and thus clearly implicates the Fourth Amendment. The Court has previously held that blood tests, urinalysis, and breathalyzer tests are searches implicating Fourth Amendment rights.” 95 F.3d, p. 870.

“[W]e conclude that Yin does have a legitimate expectation of privacy in being free from an unwanted medical examination, whether or not that examination entails any particularly intrusive procedures.” 95 F.3d, p. 871.

“Although Yin has a societally-recognized expectation of privacy in not being subjected to a medical examination, several factors diminish — but do not extinguish — that expectation. We consider those factors in turn: Yin's status as an employee; a state statute permitting testing of civil service employees; a union contract incorporating the statute; and Yin's record of extended and egregious absenteeism.” 95 F.3d, p. 871.

“The state, acting here in its role as an employer, is not asserting a new or singular prerogative. It is simply exercising a prerogative that has been traditionally accorded to private employers and that those employers have neither permitted to fall into desuetude nor have progressively abandoned. In short, the state is simply acting like a typical employer, and the expectations of its employees are, in this case at least, no different from those of private employees.” 95 F.3d, p. 872.

“[R]equiring Yin to undergo an independent medical examination would clearly further the state's interest in assuring a productive and stable work force. Accordingly, we conclude that the search at issue in this case serves a substantial and weighty government interest. Balancing Yin's diminished expectations of privacy against the state's interest in maintaining a productive and stable work force, we conclude that the state's request that Yin submit to an independent medical examination is reasonable and therefore constitutional.” 95 F.3d, p. 873.

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