The ADA is intended to eliminate discriminatory practices based upon a disability at all stages of the employment process. Naturally, the job application process itself is an important part of this process. The ADA requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for otherwise qualified disabled workers for job applicants and employees alike, as long as any reasonable accommodation does not pose an undue hardship upon the employer.
A Wendy’s Franchisee was recently sued by the EEOC for discriminating on the basis of disability when the General Manager refused to hire an applicant with a hearing impairment even though he was qualified and had experience for the job as a cook.
Following a successful interview with the Wendy’s shift manager, the applicant attempted to complete the interview process by interviewing with Wendy’s General Manager via the Relay Service, a telephone system used by people with hearing impairments to communicate with people who can hear. During the call he was told by the General Manager that “there is really no place for someone we cannot communicate with.”
The regional attorney for EEOC said, “In these tough economic times, opportunities for employment are at a premium...the applicant had the work experience necessary to do the job and was prepared to contribute his solid work ethic and skills again to the food retail business, but was denied the chance to do so on irrelevant and unlawful grounds.”
The EEOC not only seeks injunctive relief, including the formulation of policies to prevent and correct disability discrimination but also seeks lost wages and compensatory damages for the applicant and punitive damages against Wendy’s.
The ADA requires companies to treat people with disabilities the same as all other applicants for a job. When companies automatically refused to consider applicants for employment solely because of their disabilities, they violate the law. Employers who rely on their own negative, generalized assumptions about disability (in this case, the applicant’s ability to communicate) increase their risk for acting in a discriminatory manner.
Review your hiring policies and make sure all employees with hiring responsibilities know the law. If you have questions about how to mitigate your risk, contact Springboard for assistance.
This information should not be construed as “legal advice” for a particular set of facts or circumstances. It is intended only to be a practical guide for participants familiar with this subject. Users should seek appropriate legal advice tailored to address their specific situation.