Requiring a high school diploma from a job applicant might violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) warned in a recent informal discussion letter , if the employer cannot show why that level of education is necessary for the job.


The letter, while not carrying the force of law, nonetheless cautions that a high school diploma requirement may effectively “screen out” anyone unable to graduate because of a learning disability, and may therefore unlawfully exclude a category of disabled individuals.


Under the ADA , the letter states, a qualification standard must be “job related for the position in question and consistent with business necessity”—a standard that can be met only if the requirement accurately measures the individual’s ability to perform the job’s “essential functions.” An employer demanding a high school diploma will not be able to meet this requirement, the letter warns, if the job functions can be easily performed by someone without a diploma.


But even if the employer can satisfy the test, the EEOC letter goes on to remind employers of the duty to consider whether a disabled candidate can perform the job with a reasonable accommodation. If an applicant without a high school diploma can perform the fundamental duties of a job—with or without a reasonable accommodation—an employer may not exclude the applicant on that basis.


Employers in such situations may have to consider the applicant’s relevant work history or abilities during the application process, according to the EEOC’s letter.


The informal letter, although not an official opinion, demonstrates that the hiring process can present a minefield of obstacles for employers. Our Labor and Employment attorneys routinely advise employers across the country on ways to avoid liability while searching for and hiring qualified employees. If you have questions about the letter, requirements under the ADA , or any other hiring and employment standards, please contact Michelle M. McGeogh at 410.528.5661 or, or the member of the Labor and Employment Group with whom you work.   


Copyright © 2011 by Ballard Spahr LLP.
(No claim to original U.S. government material.)


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This alert is a periodic publication of Ballard Spahr LLP and is intended to notify recipients of new developments in the law. It should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion on any specific facts or circumstances. The contents are intended for general informational purposes only, and you are urged to consult your own attorney concerning your situation and specific legal questions you have.




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