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Can you fail a pre-employment physical?

Can You Fail a Pre-Employment Physical?

Pre-employment physicals are becoming increasingly common so more employers can ensure their employees will not become a liability or a potential threat to others at the worksite. A pre-employment physical includes health checks, physical exams, and drug tests. A pre-employment physical is critical for specific industries, like transportation, healthcare, and construction, where employees need to complete physically demanding tasks.

However, many candidates fear that they might fail their pre-employment physical. They believe that certain health conditions might mean their job offer can be rescinded, and they might not get another one.

This article explores the question “Can you fail a pre-employment physical?” and provides answers to some related FAQs.

What is a Pre-Employment Physical?

A pre-employment physical is an evaluation or inspection of a candidate’s health status. The exam usually covers the general medical history, drug and alcohol usage, essential functions of the job, respiratory function, and cardiovascular function.

The objective of a pre-employment physical is to determine if the candidate is physically capable of performing their duties. The exam is also conducted to assess if there are any pre-existing conditions that may be aggravated by the hiring organization’s work requirements.

Can You Fail a Pre-Employment Physical?

Yes, you can fail a pre-employment physical. However, when you fail, it does not indicate that you have an underlying problem that you cannot address. The results of the physical reveal that you may be at risk of an injury by performing the specific requirements of the position you applied for.

If you fail a pre-employment physical, the employer may rescind your job offer or reassign you to a different job that does not require the same physical demands.

What Health Issues Can Disqualify You from a Job?

There are a few health issues that might disqualify you from a job, such as:

  • Seizure disorders
  • Certain heart conditions
  • High blood pressure
  • Certain neurological disorders
  • Certain musculoskeletal disabilities
  • Drug or alcohol addiction
  • Heavy usage of certain medications
  • Poor vision or hearing loss
  • Psychological disorders

The exact health problems or medical conditions that may impact your ability to complete specific job duties will depend on the position’s job requirements.

Which industries require a pre-employment physical?

Several industries require a pre-employment physical. Some of them are:

Transportation and Logistics Industry

The transportation industry, including trucking and bus companies, requires their operators to meet specific physical requirements. They require drivers to have an acceptable visual range, adequate hearing, good cardiovascular health, and the capability to move quickly in a case of emergency situations.

Construction Industry

The construction industry includes several positions that require the employee to engage in intensive physical labor. The physical labor involves exposure to extreme weather conditions, carrying heavy loads, and climbing long flights of stairs or ladders. These individuals require physical stamina and the ability to do demanding physical work.

Healthcare Industry

The healthcare industry mandates its employees to meet specific pre-employment physical requirements. The requirement stems from the medical tasks or various activities that employees have to perform, such as lifting heavy objects, providing hands-on assistance to their patients, or standing for extended periods.

Can You Take Medications Before a Pre-Employment Physical?

Suppose you have any pre-existing medical condition that needs you to take medication. In that case, you should inform the employer ahead of the exam. Some medications can cause dizziness, sedation, or other side effects that may affect your job performance.

However, some medications may be prohibited in certain professions, such as law enforcement or air traffic control. Your employer would most likely advise you if it is okay to take your medications before the exam.

What Happens During a Pre-Employment Physical?

A pre-employment physical typically includes a detailed review of a candidate’s medical history, a physical examination, and a drug test. Some of the assessments that may be performed include:

  • Blood tests
  • Assessment of hearing and eyesight
  • Assessment of lung function, including chest x-rays or breathing tests
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG) to assess heart function
  • Physical evaluation, which includes testing your reflexes, range of motion, and strength
  • Drug screen

What if You Fail a Drug Test?

If you fail a drug test, your employer has the right to rescind your job offer. However, if you can prove that you have a valid prescription for the medication that caused the positive result, your employer may reconsider the job offer.

It is always wise to be upfront about the medications you take with your employer before the test. Disclosing this information can help the employer to make a more informed decision about your fitness to work.

Does My Medical History Affect My Ability to Pass a Pre-Employment Physical?

Your medical history may affect your ability to pass a pre-employment physical, but it does not mean that you will automatically fail the test. Still, certain medical conditions, such as a history of seizures or strokes, or a cardiovascular condition, may disqualify you from certain jobs that require regular physical exertion.

What if You Fail a Physical for a Government Job?

Failing a physical for a government job could mean a denial of employment. However, case-by-case exceptions are possible. You may be able to qualify for the job by working with a medical professional to address concerns highlighted in your physical exam.

Can Your Pre-Employment Physical affect Your Employment Benefits?

No, a pre-employment physical has no direct impact on your employment benefits. However, if the exam reveals a health issue that requires accommodations, it may lead to changes in your job duties and, consequently, your employment benefits.

Is a Pre-Employment Physical Legal?

Yes, pre-employment physicals are legal. Employers are legally allowed to require pre-employment physicals for job positions that require specific health and physical fitness.

However, pre-employment physicals should not be discriminatory. Employers must not discriminate against applicants with disabilities. Reasonable accommodations must be provided to those who need it to perform essential duties or to undergo the exam.

Can an Employer Ask for Your Medical Records?

An employer can request your medical records, but not without a good reason. The request has to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and/or HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act).

The request must be directly related to the job, and the employer must protect the privacy of employees’ medical records. Employers are usually required to maintain a strict record retention policy to ensure that the medical records are kept safe and confidential.

Can an Employee Object to a Pre-Employment Physical on Religious Grounds?

An employee can object to a pre-employment physical on religious grounds. However, to do so, the employee must have a sincerely held religious belief that conflicts with the physical requirements of the job. To comply with the ADA, employers must offer alternatives to the job’s physical requirements that do not conflict with the employee’s religious beliefs.


In conclusion, individuals can fail a pre-employment physical, but it does not necessarily mean they are unfit for all jobs. For those with pre-existing conditions, making employers aware of the situation upfront can help reassure the employer and showcase how a few accommodations could still allow the employee to perform the job’s duties well. It is essential to understand that pre-employment physicals follow legal guidelines and are not meant to discriminate. Instead, the goal is to ensure the safety of all employees on the job site. By understanding the physical requirements for various industries, taking necessary medications, and disclosing pre-existing medical conditions, candidates can ensure their success during a pre-employment physical for the position that they desire.

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