EEOC Office of Legal Counsel staff members wrote the following informal discussion letter in response to an inquiry from a member of the public. This letter is intended to provide an informal discussion of the noted issue and does not constitute an official opinion of the Commission.
ADA: Applicants and Reasonable Accommodation
August 15, 2018
I am responding to your letter of June 28, 2018, in which you expressed concerns that digital interviews could negatively affect applicants who are deaf or hard of hearing in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Your letter mentioned two companies that invited you to participate in such interviews after you applied for positions.
Title I of the ADA prohibits discrimination by covered entities (including employers) against a qualified individual on the basis of disability. This prohibition includes discrimination in recruitment, advertising, job application procedures, and hiring. See 29 C.F.R. §1630.4(a)(i-ii). The ADA also makes it illegal for covered entities to refuse “to make reasonable accommodation to the known physical or mental limitations of an otherwise qualified applicant or employee with a disability” unless the entity can show it would cause “undue hardship.” See 29 C.F.R. §1630.9(a) (emphasis added). Undue hardship is defined as “significant difficulty or expense.” See 29 C.F.R. §1630.2(p)(1). In defining “reasonable accommodation,” the law states that it includes “[m]odifications or adjustments to a job application process that enable a qualified applicant with a disability to be considered.” See 29 C.F.R. §1630.2(o)(i). The EEOC provides more information about these legal requirements in its Enforcement Guidance on Reasonable Accommodation and Undue Hardship Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, available at www.eeoc.gov/policy/docs/accommodation.html. You may view the ADA regulations at www.eeoc.gov/laws/regulations/index.cfm.
Using digital interviews does not in itself necessarily violate the ADA. The ADA requires that companies make their hiring processes accessible to applicants with disabilities. This means that the company must provide a reasonable accommodation, if requested, to enable an applicant to use the digital interview format effectively, or must provide another method for conducting an interview.
If an applicant requests a reasonable accommodation to proceed with a digital interview, or requests a different interview method as a reasonable accommodation, and the company refuses to provide one, then the company will violate the ADA unless it can show undue hardship. A company will also violate the ADA if it does not provide a way for an applicant to request a reasonable accommodation in a timely manner, thus resulting in the applicant’s losing the opportunity to compete for the position.
The first company’s email inviting you to have a digital interview states at the bottom: “For any other questions or if you have any concerns, you may contact me directly. . . . If you have any questions for me, you can email me here – firstname.lastname@example.org.” From the documents you included with your letter, it appears that you did contact the designated individual but these emails do not make clear whether (1) you communicated that, due to a disability, you might have trouble using a digital interview to continue the application process and/or (2) you requested a reasonable accommodation to enable you to continue the hiring process other than by using a digital interview. The email exchange does seem to indicate that you learned that the advertised job was in another state and thus may not have been appropriate for you.
Your letter states that the second company’s job announcement warned that any applicant that tried to call the company would be disqualified. If this warning applies to any contact with the company, whether in person, by phone, or online, and there is no exception for reasonable accommodation requests, there may well be an ADA violation. You can consider whether to try to contact a company anyway and clearly state that your contact is about a request to provide reasonable accommodation for a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act with respect to the application process. Applicants who contact companies to request reasonable accommodation should keep copies of all correspondence (email or otherwise) or keep a log noting all attempts to contact a company, the person or office contacted and what, if any, response the applicant receives.
After further assessing what you experienced in light of the ADA’s reasonable accommodation requirements, you may decide to file a charge of discrimination. Information about filing a charge can be found on EEOC’s website: https://www.eeoc.gov/employees/charge.cfm. There are deadlines for filing a charge; depending on the state it could be 180 or 300 days from the date of the alleged discrimination.I hope this information is helpful. This letter is not an official opinion of the EEOC.
Senior Attorney Advisor
Office of Legal Counsel
This page was last modified on September 7, 2018.
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