When Are High School Diploma Requirements Permissible Under the ADA?

In a recent informal discussion letter, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) suggested that in some circumstances requiring a high school diploma as a condition of employment may violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  The EEOC explained that “some individuals cannot obtain a high school diploma, and therefore cannot obtain jobs requiring a high school diploma, because their learning disabilities caused them to perform inadequately.”

The EEOC stated that 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 requirement unless the employer can show both:

  1. The diploma requirement is “job related and consistent with business necessity”  – i.e., the requirement accurately measures the applicant’s ability to perform the job’s essential functions; and
  2. The requirement cannot be met, and the job cannot be performed, with a reasonable accommodation.

Takeaway for Employers:  When considering whether to adopt or apply a high school diploma requirement, employers should think critically about whether the requirement is “job related and consistent with business necessity” and whether a disabled employee without a high school diploma could perform the job with a reasonable accommodation.

About Michael Miller

Michael is a Chambers-rated attorney in Briggs and Morgan's Employment, Benefits, and Labor group and is head of the firm’s Employment Law Counseling and Compliance practice group. He has 25 years experience counseling employers to prevent unwanted litigation and advises companies of ongoing changes in federal, state and local employment law. Michael advises employers in all areas of employment law including discipline and discharge, leaves of absence, wage and hour compliance, non-compete and confidentiality agreements, affirmative action plans, background checking, and drug/alcohol testing. For Michael's full bio, click here.

Posted on January 6, 2012, in Accommodations and Accessibility and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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