Human Resources News & Insights

Requiring HS diploma could violate ADA, EEOC says

Companies of all sizes routinely require applicants to have a high school diploma to be considered for job openings. Guess what? The EEOC says that practice could violate the Americans with Disabilities Act.

That startling message was contained in a recent “informal discussion” letter from EEOC attorney Aaron Konopasky. Such letters aren’t official statements of policy from the agency, but indicate how the EEOC might handle specific situations.

Basically, Konopasky wrote that that requiring a high school diploma may be illegal if it’s not related to a specific job.

Here’s the wording of the letter:

…(I)f 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.

Even if the 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.

It may do so, for example, by 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. If the individual can perform the job’s essential functions, with or without a reasonable accommodation, despite the inability to meet the standard, the employer may not use the high school diploma requirement to exclude the applicant.

However, the employer is not required to prefer the applicant with a learning disability over other applicants who are better qualified.

To read the full informal discussion letter, go here.

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