Application of Physical Ability Testing to Current Workforce of Transit Employees

Document Type


Publication Date


Subject Area

policy - disability, place - north america, organisation - workforce planning, organisation - regulation


Ability tests, Age Discrimination in Employment Act, Americans with Disabilities Act, Civil Rights Act of 1964, Diseases and medical conditions, Employees, Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, Labor force, Legal factors, Life styles, Physical abilities, Physical fitness, Public transit, Smoking, Weight


Physical assessments are accepted as a prerequisite to employment in the transit industry, particularly for safety-sensitive job positions. Such assessments routinely include vision and hearing tests for employees required to hold a commercial driver's license (CDL), drug and alcohol testing as mandated by federal regulations, and hearing and spirometry tests required to meet health and safety standards. Transit employees' ability to perform physical portions of essential job functions may also be assessed through physical ability testing. Moreover, transit agencies may have concerns about their employees' health and overall physical fitness as those factors affect productivity, health care costs, and workers' compensation costs, which may lead transit agencies to consider imposing lifestyle restrictions related to employee weight and off-duty use of tobacco, including instituting physical testing to measure compliance with those restrictions. Finally, employers may wish to require assessments of physical ability when employees return to work after an injury or prolonged absence. The purpose of this report is to address the legal ramifications of instituting physical ability testing, and of exceeding government requirements related to physical ability. The report also addresses the relationship between such testing and medical inquiries and examinations. Legal issues discussed include Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, and related state requirements. This report should be useful to transit administrators, human resources officials, labor officials, unions, employee relations specialists, employees, policy makers, and others.


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