Legal

Don’t Ignore Reasonable Accommodations in the Application Process

By Jon Hyman

Jan. 5, 2016

Eliminating barriers in recruitment and hiring is one of six national priorities identified by the EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan. Large national employers provide the EEOC with a soapbox to broadcast this agenda. Thus, a lawsuit filed by the agency against McDonald’s Corp. for its alleged refusal to interview a deaf job applicant is a perfect ADA-storm.

According to the complaint, Ricky Washington, who is deaf, applied online for a job at a McDonald’s restaurant. He indicated on his application that he attended a school for the deaf. When the restaurant manager learned Washington needed a sign language interpreter for his job interview, she canceled the interview and never rescheduled it, continuing to interview and hire new workers.

Employers cannot forget or ignore that their obligations under the ADA to provide reasonable accommodations does not just cover employees, but also extends to job applicants. From the EEOC’s Enforcement Guidance on Reasonable Accommodation and Undue Hardship Under the ADA:

An employer must provide a reasonable accommodation to a qualified applicant with a disability that will enable the individual to have an equal opportunity to participate in the application process and to be considered for a job (unless it can show undue hardship). Thus, individuals with disabilities who meet initial requirements to be considered for a job should not be excluded from the application process because the employer speculates, based on a request for reasonable accommodation for the application process, that it will be unable to provide the individual with reasonable accommodation to perform the job. In many instances, employers will be unable to determine whether an individual needs reasonable accommodation to perform a job based solely on a request for accommodation during the application process. And even if an individual will need reasonable accommodation to perform the job, it may not be the same type or degree of accommodation that is needed for the application process. Thus, an employer should assess the need for accommodations for the application process separately from those that may be needed to perform the job.

Per EEOC St. Louis District Director James R. Neely, Jr., “Removing obstacles in the hiring process for people with disabilities is a national priority for EEOC. All employers, but especially large ones, should join with the agency to make sure everyone has equal access to the employment process.” Adds EEOC Regional Attorney Andrea G. Baran, “Providing equal employment opportunities to all job applicants—including those with disabilities—is not just the law, it is good for our economy and our workplaces.” Solid words for employers of all sizes to heed.

Jon Hyman is a partner in the Employment & Labor practice at Wickens Herzer Panza. Contact Hyman at JHyman@Wickenslaw.com.

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