Legal Alerts

EEOC Issues Letter About how ADA Applies to Job Qualification Standards


On November 17, 2011, the EEOC issued an informal discussion letter about how the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to qualification standards for jobs. There has been significant commentary about the meaning of the letter. Nothing in the letter prohibits employers from adopting a requirement that a job applicant have a high school diploma. However, an employer may have to allow someone who says that a disability has prevented him from obtaining a high school diploma to demonstrate qualification for the job in some other way.

Employers may continue to have high school diploma requirements. However, if an applicant tells an employer s/he cannot meet the requirement because of a disability, an employer may have to allow the applicant to demonstrate the ability to do the job in some other way. This may include considering work experience in the same or similar jobs, or allowing the applicant to demonstrate performance of the job’s essential functions. The employer can require the applicant to demonstrate that s/he has a disability and that the disability actually prevents the applicant from meeting the high school diploma requirement. Even if the applicant with a disability can demonstrate the ability to do the job through some means other than possession of a high school diploma, the employer may still choose the best qualified person for the job. The employer does not have to prefer the applicant with a disability over someone who can perform the job better.

The EEOC’s informal discussion letters are meant to provide assistance for employers in complying with the laws. In this case the letter was intended to explain how the ADA applies when any job requirement excludes someone with a disability from a job.

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