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:
- 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
- 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.