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I recently received an offer letter from a software company that states the offer "is contingent upon my successful completion of the pre-employment screening process, including ... my satisfactory completion of any post-offer, pre-employment physical examination."

I have been working in the software industry for over 30 years and I have never heard of a software engineer needing to take a "post-offer, pre-employment physical examination." What would this examination entail, who would conduct it and what would constitute "satisfactory completion." Furthermore, why would a company want to do this? Is it about saving money on health care? Or are they trying to use the results as a predictor of performance?

Edit: Additional Info. The position is a principal software engineer, non managerial, software development role. Besides the above statement about a physical, there is another clause in the offer about drug testing. It says that I "may" be subject to drug testing within 48 hours of accepting the offer or within 48 hours of some other future time as determined by the company. It doesn't say anything about the type of drug testing. To make matters worse (or maybe just more complicated) this company uses a "co-employment" scheme where another company actually does all of the HR, and worker are employees of both companies. This is in the US state of Massachusetts, where Cannabis will be legal July 1. I should also mention that the offer letter was the first mention of drug testing -- not mentioned by the recruiting agency or the any of the interviewers. The testing was mentioned on a paper application, but this application had the name of another company on it, the "co-employer." I crossed out the clause when I returned the application. I generally would avoid these types of situations, not because I'm a drug user, but because drug testing perpetuates stereotypes that generally are false. The company develops safety-related software, so the drug testing may be justified, but this information came at the very end of the process.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Masked Man May 31 '18 at 13:09
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    I can tell you they are mandatory for everything in Poland. Always chocks me. And it is not job start - I think I send my admin people to the doctor every 3 years to validate that yes, it is not to stressfull for them to sit in a chair. – TomTom Aug 10 '18 at 14:05
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A quick search brings this relevant passage from HR.com

Why should I do pre-placement exams? Most employers consider pre-placement exams a type of insurance. The vast majority of people sent for pre-placement exams are physically healthy and pass without problems.

However, a small number of people have medical problems that would interfere with their ability to safely perform their job. The exam should find them.

Another place, Post Offer Screening states:

Daly-Gawenda (1986) examined reasons why employment related screening was conducted, finding results were utilized to provide health counseling, health promotion, and health referrals (24%); to ensure the health and safety of the employee, coworkers, and clients (12%); and to decrease potential liabilities under workers'compensation (12%).

I understand that your question is specifically about software engineering, and historically the medical screening has been related to physical jobs, but it's 2018 and employee health is more and more closely looked at 'brain industries'. For example, AFAIK IBM subsidized fitness trackers for employees in the past.

(Another angle is more and more invasive corporate and state attitude).

  • @solarflare as per my answer, EEOC regulations prevent specific medical knowledge from being used to determine employment. The physical stipulated in his offer will not be legally used to determine if he has a pre-existing condition. – GOATNine May 30 '18 at 11:47
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I recently (Early April 2018) began working at a new place of employment as a Controls Engineer. The employment offer also stipulated a physical exam and a drug screen (the drug screen being very typical in the automotive industry due to the amount of gov't money that tends to pass through).

The physical exam was a wellness quiz followed by a standard physical. They checked vitals and hearing, but didn't fill out specifics numbers. The physician just marked fit for work/not fit for work. Also, in the United States, You would at the very least have to sign a waiver to allow particular details of your medical history to be given. The employer cannot require any part or portion of your medical history beyond this pass/fail as a condition of employment, as that violates EEOC regulations.

From what I gathered, the physical was more of a way to avoid hiring someone who would not be able to safely fulfill the job requirements due to health concerns (In my case, as I'm on a manufacturing floor for part of my job, I must pass a hearing exam to verify I can be alerted to unsafe conditions in a noisy environment). The company has a separate program geared toward reducing health costs that is entirely voluntary, but impacts the premiums the employee pays. That program does not impact my employment beyond what gets deducted from payroll for my portion of healthcare costs, but requires a full physical as dictated by the insuring company.

I would not stress too much about the physical. To me, the drug screen being post-employment (I had to successfully pass mine before employment was official) is more of an oddity, though usually the interview process doesn't touch on screening requirements like that in my experience.

This is from the perspective of an automotive robot programmer/controls engineer/robotic software developer in Michigan.

  • Very interesting – davidbak May 30 '18 at 16:28
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My first wager would be that the company simply adds that boilerplate language to all offers and then figures out based on the role whether a physical exam is actually required. The letter doesn't say that there will be an exam, just that you'll need to complete one if requested. It may be easier to include that text on every letter rather than maintaining two different offer letter templates, one for positions that have physical requirements and one for positions that don't and making sure that everyone gets the right letter.

My next guess is that the "physical exam" is really just a drug screen. Depending on the nature of what software you're developing, the company may need/ want to verify that you're not using illegal drugs. But since that generally just involves a urine test, it would be a bit odd to refer to that as a physical exam.

Finally, it's possible that the company is simply being proactive about employee health and disabilities. If they're hiring for an IT position where you'll be crawling around laying cables or moving PCs all day, they may want the doctor to determine whether you can physically do the work and/or what accommodations the employee would require. If you'll be doing purely software development, they may want a doctor to look for signs of carpel-tunnel and other repetitive stress injuries and to recommend ergonomic adjustments to your workstation.

  • Never underestimate the power of boilerplate to get everywhere. If most employees at a company should have a physical, it's likely to be required of everyone. – David Thornley Aug 10 '18 at 15:51
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A lot of it will also depend on the nature of the company you're applying for. I've went through four IT hiring processes - two at insurance companies, one at a logistics company, and one at a manufacturing company.

The logistics company? A large portion of their workforce were low paid, unionized employees (truck drivers, warehouse workers). The company needed to do drug-screenings on those hires, but they didn't want to deal with the potential fallout of only asking the union employees for a drug test - so everyone did a drug test before getting hired.

The manufacturing company? Same boat as the logistics, but with another wrinkle. They had to do physicals, because they needed to be able to know that Employee X has Condition Y before coming in (instead of the employee being able to sue that the job gave them that condition.) And, again, they didn't want to deal with the fallout of only giving that physical to the union employees, so I was required to get a physical even though I was only being hired for an IT position.

The insurance companies? No drug test, no physical.

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I don't think they would be using this as an excuse to straight up fire you because you have a bad knee or anything. One possibility is that the company wants to know of any health issues beforehand so that they are not blindsided if you would need to take some time off due to said health issues, or to remove liability if you were to claim a previous health issue as workplace related.

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The information in many of the other answers is quite good, but hasn't addressed one factor which may be critical here: the industry in which the company operates.

If the industry is healthcare or healthcare technology, then the customers of the company may have specific requirements for health screening of both their employees [including non-clinical staff such as IT and Facilities workers] and third-party workers who work on-site - such as Systems Engineers who are installing or servicing systems. In order to meet customer requirements, a company would have to screen their own staff, most likely on a periodic basis, and probably at hiring time.

Just some more grist for the mill ...

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You've been working for 30 years, so you wouldn't be young anymore. The company might want to make sure if you have the physical capability to deliver the tasks.

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    @Ben dabdavis is right. Physical health is still important for software engineers. OP can't be considered as a young employee (30+ software experience). – SmallChess May 30 '18 at 5:00
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    If he started out as an engineer at 25 and has 30 years experience that makes him 55. Hardly an age considered to be "old". (Unless you're asking teenagers of course) – solarflare May 30 '18 at 5:14
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    In software engineering I'd consider "old" to be someone who no longer has the mental capacity to perform his tasks due to age. – solarflare May 30 '18 at 5:18
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    @Grandmaster it sounded like it was a medical exam not an intellectual one. Most employers already screen their candidates with various tests anyway, which in a sense would find the ones no longer able to perform their tasks. But as a software engineer how would it be relevant if someone has weak knee joints or high cholesterol? We have people who work here with physical disabilities and they do a great job. So there could be one of 2 reasons why the medical test: 1- see if they use drugs or 2- see if they have existing ailments in case one day they decide to sue for work related stuff. – solarflare May 30 '18 at 5:26
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    @solarflare third option - the standards for the physical exam are set such that only a younger (or very fit) individual can pass them. A way to discriminate on age without actually discriminating on age – alroc May 30 '18 at 12:47

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