The Americans with Disabilities Act makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against a qualified applicant or employee with a disability. According to a lawsuit that the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed yesterday, an employer did both.
To the same individual.
Here’s more from the EEOC press release:
According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, in January 2022, [a deaf individual] applied to work as a remote IT administrator [for the defendant], a position that involves providing internal IT assistance and support to [the defendant’s] employees, and one for which [the applicant] was well-qualified. Upon review of [his] application, [the defendant] advanced his candidacy to the interview stage, at which time he requested an accommodation based on his deafness and use of American Sign Language (ASL) to communicate. In response, [the defendant] simply denied his accommodation request and terminated his candidacy on the basis that verbal communication and hearing were job requirements for the position in a remote setting.
That isn’t good. But, the EEOC may be sugar-coating the allegations in its press release.
According to the complaint, the deaf applicant had 17 — SEVENTEEN!!! — years of experience in the IT professional support field, including work as a Remote IT Director, a Remote IT Engineer, and an IT Systems Administrator for various companies.
The EEOC further alleged that, during the interview process, 4 — FOUR!!! — of the employer’s human resources employees learned that the applicant was deaf and required a reasonable accommodation to complete the interview process. Shortly after that, the employer discussed the accommodation request and was “not sure if this person would be able to do the job” because “verbal and written communication is a job requirement for the IT Admin.”
Even if this stereotyped response encapsulated some essential job functions, they were nowhere to be found in the job description. Ultimately, the company’s CEO decided to deny the accommodation because he believed that a deaf candidate would not be able to handle the remote position.
But did anyone discuss the candidate’s accommodation, address his disability, or even ask him how he could perform the job?
The EEOC claims the company dropped the ball on all three. Hence, the lawsuit.
Three quick takeaways:
- During the hiring process, employers must provide “reasonable accommodation” — appropriate changes and adjustments — so an applicant with a disability may be considered for a job opening unless doing so would cause undue hardship to the business. This may include extra time to complete a written test or modify test administration.
- Applicants do not have to reveal that they may need a reasonable accommodation. Likewise, an employer cannot ask all applicants whether they would need a reasonable accommodation to perform a job because the answer to this question is likely to reveal whether an applicant has a disability.
- Employers can ask applicants to explain how they will perform the job. That’s literally what companies hire people to do.