A national coffeehouse chain faces a lawsuit filed by a job applicant with a disability. The man alleges discrimination in the employer's hiring practices and claims that he was turned down for a barista job because he has only half of his left arm. The job applicant claims that the store manager told him that he could not perform the job because many of the flavored syrup bottles are stored too high for him to reach.
In the lawsuit, the man claims that he was never given the opportunity to show his ability to perform the job or to request possible reasonable accommodations to perform the job.
The coffeehouse chain asserts in its defense that it employs many workers with disabilities and disputes the man's account of the interview. "One-armed man sues Starbucks for not hiring him," www.sfgate.com
(Feb. 21, 2012).Commentary and Checklist
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits disability discrimination in all aspects of the hiring process including recruitment, the intake of applications, interviews, and final hiring decisions.
In this case, the employer allegedly made a decision not to hire the applicant based on the assumption that the applicant could not perform a necessary job duty; namely, reaching flavored syrup bottles. But the ADA requires employers to disregard a disability if the job applicant can perform the job with or without reasonable accommodations. The requirement means that employers should not make the decision not to hire an applicant without first exploring accommodation options.
An employer may consider allowing an applicant with a disability to provide a list of reasonable accommodations that could enable him or her to perform the job. An employer may also seek an independent evaluation of whether an applicant with a disability can perform the particular job with or without reasonable accommodation.
Many employers do not realize the extent of protections the ADA offers job applicants. The ADA also requires employers to make reasonable accommodations during the application process and interviews. These reasonable accommodations take many forms, such as supplying written materials and applications in accessible formats (large print, Braille, or audiotape); providing readers or sign language interpreters; and/or conducting recruitment, interviews, and job testing at locations accessible to those with disabilities.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces the ADA in employment. Go to the EEOC's Disability Discrimination
page to learn more about ways to make your workplace ADA compliant.
Consider these additional suggestions to avoid disability discrimination in the hiring process:
- Do not ask questions about disabilities on application forms or tests or during any part of the application and interview process.
- If an applicant requests, orally or in writing, a reasonable accommodation for the interview process, try to accommodate the request.
- Do not ask questions that are likely to reveal the existence of a disability before making a job offer. Questions and medical examinations are permitted after extending a job offer but before the individual begins work.
- Do not withdraw the job offer solely because you learn that an applicant has a disability. Seek the advice of an attorney before making any decision to reject an applicant with a disability or retract an offer of employment.
- Don't make assumptions about a prospective employee's ability to work. Judge each applicant on his or her unique qualifications.
This informational piece was published on April 5, 2012.
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