EEOC Provides Answers About Interviews, Testing, Reasonable Accommodations, Medical Information
WASHINGTON - As National Disability Employment Awareness Month begins, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today released a new fact sheet designed to educate job applicants on how Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects their rights throughout the hiring process. This tool is EEOC's most recent strategy in a series of efforts, under President Bush's New Freedom Initiative, to advance the employment of individuals with disabilities. The fact sheet is available at www.eeoc.gov.
"While many people with disabilities are aware of the Americans with Disabilities Act, they may not fully understand how the law protects them," said Commission Chair Cari M. Dominguez. "The EEOC created this fact sheet to empower job seekers with disabilities by helping them to navigate all aspects of the hiring process."
The fact sheet covers employer obligations such as the provision of "reasonable accommodation" for applicants with disabilities who need assistance during the hiring process. Accommodations may include providing or modifying equipment, providing written materials in an accessible format (for example, braille), providing sign language interpreters, and ensuring that interviews are held in accessible locations. Applicants who require reasonable accommodations from prospective employers must request them and be prepared to explain why accommodation is needed.
The new publication also explains the ADA's rules on when employers may seek medical information from applicants. Before making a job offer, an employer cannot require a medical examination or ask questions that are likely to reveal that an applicant has a disability. The fact sheet reviews the types of questions that are prohibited during interviews and on applications, and discusses what questions an employer may ask of applicants with obvious disabilities, such as deafness or loss of a limb.
"Just as employers cannot refuse to hire an applicant simply because he or she has a disability if the person can perform the essential functions of the job, an applicant should also focus during the hiring process on his or her qualifications rather than on the disability," Chair Dominguez added.
President George W. Bush has proclaimed October 2003 to be National Disability Employment Awareness Month, a time when private sector entities; federal, state and local government agencies; and advocacy organizations showcase the abilities of people with disabilities, and focus attention on removing barriers to employment. This year's national theme is "America Works Best When All Americans Work."
In addition to enforcing Title I of the ADA, which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in the private sector and state and local governments, and the Rehabilitation Act's prohibitions against disability discrimination in the federal government, EEOC enforces Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin; the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, which prohibits discrimination against individuals 40 years of age or older; the Equal Pay Act; and sections of the Civil Rights Act of 1991.