An employer’s email to a “no call/no show” employee asking “what is going on” is not a “medical inquiry” under the ADA, according to the 7th Circuit. EEOC v. Thrivent Financial for Lutherans (7th Cir. Nov. 20. 2012).

The Court rejected the EEOC’s argument that the word “inquiries” in the “Medical Examinations and Inquiries” section of the ADA refers to all job-related inquiries, not just medical inquiries. The Court held that “at a minimum,” an employer must know “something was wrong with the employee before initiating the interaction ….for that interaction to constitute a[n] inquiry [under that section].” No evidence suggested that the defendant should have inferred that the employee’s absence that day was due to a medical condition, the Court noted.

In response to the employer’s email inquiry, the employee provided a lengthy response attributing his absence, and inability to call in, to a migraine headache, and detailing his history of migraine headaches. The Court held that because the employer’s email was not a medical inquiry, the employer’s disclosure of the information it learned from the employee’s response did not violate the ADA’s confidentiality provisions.

The case arose because the employee believed the defendant violated the medical information confidentiality provisions of the ADA by sharing the information from his email response with prospective employees calling for reference checks. The Court affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment to Thrivant on this claim.