Diploma Requirement Possibly Illegal

by Deborah Z Mark


Under certain circumstances, requiring job applicants to have a high school diploma violates the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

The ruling comes from an “informal discussion letter” from the EEOC.  Discussion letters themselves don’t carry the weight of the law, but do indicate which way the agency might rule on an issue.

The letter states: …if an employer adopts a high school diploma requirement for a job, and that requirement “screens out” an individual who is unable to graduate because of a learning disability that meets the ADA’s definition of disability, the employer may not apply the standard unless it can demonstrate that the diploma requirement is job related and consistent with business necessity.  (The employer will not be able to make this showing, for example, if the functions in question can easily be performed by someone who does not have a diploma).

In other words, to list a high school diploma as a requirement, you must show that the requirement is job related, especially if an applicant has a learning disability.  It must be a prerequisite for performing “essential functions of the job”.

The letter does not mention how you might determine whether the applicant has a disability, unless the applicant tells you.

Be careful if you list a high school diploma as a hiring requirement.

It could be illegal.

Call managestaff with questions regarding hiring requirements.

managestaff.  It’s what we do.

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