When we think of employers' reasonable accommodation
obligations under the ADA, we usually think in terms of accommodating current
employees. The ADA, however, equally extends this obligation to job applicants.
A recent lawsuit filed by the EEOC against Toys "R" Us illustrates this
The EEOC charged that Shakirra Thomas, who is deaf,
applied for a team member position at the retailer's Columbia, Md., store in
October 2011. Thomas communicates by using American Sign Language, reading lips
and through written word. When the company contacted Thomas to attend a group
interview, Thomas's mother advised that Thomas was deaf and requested the
company to provide an interpreter for the interview. The retailer refused and
said that if Thomas wished to attend a group interview in November 2011, then
she would have to provide her own interpreter, the EEOC alleges.
Thomas's mother interpreted for her during a group
interview, but the company refused to hire Thomas despite her qualifications
for and ability to perform the team member position, with or without a
reasonable accommodation, the EEOC said in its lawsuit.
What is the takeaway for employers? Don't conflate the
need for a job-related accommodation with an interview-related accommodation.
If a job applicant need an accommodation to complete the interview process, and
it does not impose an undue burden, provide it. If it turns out that someone
cannot perform the essential functions of the job even with an accommodation, you
are within your rights to deny employment. You cannot make that determination,
however, unless you consider them for the job first.
Visit the Ohio Employer's Law Blog for more
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