Employment law fascinates me. I’ve never felt that I wanted to argue in front of a judge and other attorneys about it, but I admit: I spend lots and lots of time thinking about it. I receive many email newsletters, but the ones I look at first always have employment law stories at the top. I also enjoy reading the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) so-called informal discussion letters. These letters, and subsequent question and answer documents, are provided to help employers interpret the many ins and outs of employment law.
The latest question and answer document is intended to clarify an informal discussion letter issued by the EEOC last November. The letter addressed whether a requiring a high school diploma had a disparate impact on individuals with disabilities. The letter itself is not a new law or reinterpretation; rather, these letters are issued in an attempt to address questions about the law. As with most documents issued by government, it’s not surprising that many employers found the guidelines confusing.
Here are some of the takeaways from the Q & A document:
- Employers are not prohibited from issuing a requirement that a job applicant have a high school diploma.
- Individuals without high school diplomas are not covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for that fact alone. The ADA protects individuals who are not able to obtain a high school diploma because of their disability.
- Employers, as always, should select the most qualified person for the job; they are not required to give preference to an individual with a disability.
- Employers may request documentation of the disability as it relates to the individual’s inability to obtain a high school diploma.
Best practices for employers:
- Review job descriptions – Determine whether or not you want to include the requirement of an individual to have a high school diploma on every job in your organization on the description. There are many jobs in which a high school education is not necessary to perform essential functions.
- For jobs that do require a high school diploma – Proactively review the job to determine ways that an individual could demonstrate proficiency and ability to perform those duties. Consider past positions and job previews as well.