EEOC Guidance on Whether High School Diploma Requirement Violates ADA - A Creative Services, Inc. Compliance Corner Article

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EEOC Guidance on Whether High School Diploma Requirement Violates ADA

04.06.12

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has published new guidance addressing whether an employer violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by requiring a high-school diploma for a job. The guidance was issued in response to an informal discussion letter in which the agency stated that the requirement may violate the ADA if (1) it screens out individuals who cannot obtain a diploma because of a learning disability and (2) the employer can’t demonstrate that the requirement is job-related and consistent with business necessity.

Discussion letter creates more questions than it answers
The EEOC stated that it issued the guidance, which is in question-and-answer format, in response to “significant commentary and conjecture” about the meaning and scope of the November 2011 discussion letter in which the agency stated:

If an employer adopts a high school diploma requirement for a job, and that requirement “screens out” an individual who is unable to graduate because of a learning disability that meets the ADA’s definition of “disability,” the employer may not apply the standard unless it can demonstrate that the diploma requirement is job related and consistent with business necessity. The employer will not be able to make this showing, for example, if the functions in question can easily be performed by someone who does not have a diploma.

The letter further stated that even if a diploma requirement is job-related and consistent with business necessity, “the employer may still have to determine whether a particular applicant whose learning disability prevents him from meeting it can perform the essential functions of the job, with or without a reasonable accommodation.” The agency noted an employer may make that determination by, for example, “considering relevant work history and/or by allowing the applicant to demonstrate an ability to do the job’s essential functions during the application process.”

The discussion letter was issued in response to an inquiry from the public and does not constitute an official opinion of the EEOC.

The informational letter can be found at the following link: http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/foia/letters/2011/ada_qualification_standards.html

Guidance provides clarification
In the guidance, the EEOC clarifies several issues, including the following:

  • Nothing in the discussion letter prohibits an employer from adopting a requirement that a job applicant have a high-school diploma. However, you may have to allow an individual who claims that a disability prevented him from obtaining a high-school diploma to demonstrate qualification for the job in some other way.
  • The ADA protects only a person whose disability makes it impossible for him to get a diploma. It does not protect someone who simply decided not to get a high-school diploma.
  • You are not required to hire an individual with a disability; you may still choose the most qualified applicant. Similarly, you don’t have to give preference to an applicant with a disability over someone who can perform the job better.

Bottom line
The EEOC’s guidance provides helpful clarification, including that you may require a high-school diploma for a position. It also serves as a reminder that in some situations, you may be required to accommodate an employee or applicant whose ADA-qualified disability prevented him from obtaining a diploma.

If you have any questions regarding your background screening services or this new guidance, please contact Jack Nichols, Director and General Counsel, Creative Services, Inc. at 508-339-5451 x211.

This Client Alert is a courtesy notification for our clients and should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion on any specific facts or circumstances. The contents are intended for general information purposes only, and you are urged to consult a lawyer concerning your own situation and any specific legal questions you may have.

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