During a recent meeting with a client, we were asked if we were aware of the EEO’s opinion letter on high school diploma job requirements and discrimination under the Americans with Disability Act. We found the conversation to be very relevant given the fact that many employers have a standard hiring practice that generally requires a high school diploma.
Recently the EEOC issued an informal opinion letter stating that a high school diploma job requirement could be considered discrimination under the Americans with Disability Act. In their informal opinion letter, the EEOC stated the qualification standard that screens out individuals on the basis of a disability must be job-related and consistent with business necessity, or it may violate the ADA. Under the ADA, a qualification standard, test, or other selection criterion, such as a high school diploma requirement, that screens out an individual or a class of individuals on the basis of a disability must be job related for the position in question and consistent with business necessity. A qualification standard is job related and consistent with business necessity if it accurately measures the ability to perform the job’s essential functions (i.e. its fundamental duties). Even where a challenged qualification standard, test, or other selection criterion is job related and consistent with business necessity, if it screens out an individual on the basis of disability, an employer must also demonstrate that the standard or criterion cannot be met, and the job cannot be performed, with a reasonable accommodation. See 42 U.S.C. § 12112(b)(6); 29 C.F.R. §§ 1630.10, 1630.15(b) and (c); 29 C.F.R. pt. 1630, app §§ 1630.10, 1630.15(b) and (c).
This means that for each position, the employer must take multiple steps to ensure they are not discriminating under the ADA. First, the employer must determine if the qualification standard of a high school diploma is job-related and consistent with business necessity. If the employer determines a high school diploma is job related, the employer must then determine whether the individual applicant whose learning disability kept him or her from obtaining a diploma can perform the essential functions of the job, with or without a reasonable accommodation.
Employers should keep in mind, that, if they are going to use this kind of qualification standard, they need to have a specific job related reason based in the qualifications for the position itself. Employers need to look at individuals on a case-by-case basis to determine if there is some type of reasonable accommodation that might allow the person to successfully perform the job.
Midwest Staffing is always glad to be a resource to our clients regarding the latest employment related legislation. If you have any questions regarding this issue or any others, please feel free to contact your local branch office.