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Diploma job requirement may be illegal

December 27, 2011

Requiring a High School Diploma May Violate the ADA
Barran Liebman
Oregon Law Firm

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) posted an informal discussion letter to its Web site addressing employment qualification standards, including high school diplomas, and concerns they may raise under the ADA. As the EEOC explained, qualification standards like the requirement that an applicant have a high school diploma screen out those with disabilities who are unable to attain the particular qualification because of a learning disability. Such standards are only permissible if they are job related and consistent with business necessity.

A qualification standard is job related and consistent with business necessity if it accurately measures an applicant’s ability to perform the job’s essential functions (i.e., its fundamental duties). That is, if the fundamental duties of a job can easily be performed by someone who does not have a high school diploma, the employer will not be able to establish that the requirement could lead to liability under the ADA.

However, even where an employer is able to show that a particular qualification standard is job related and consistent with business necessity, its inquiry is not done. Where a particular applicant has been screened because a learning disability prevents the applicant from attaining a diploma, the employer may still need to determine if the applicant can perform the essential functions of the job with or without reasonable accommodation. For example, if the applicant has related work history, he or she may be able to perform the essential functions of the job with or without reasonable accommodation.

As the end of the year nears, employers with an eye toward hiring in 2012 may want to take a close look at the qualification requirements for upcoming positions to ensure compliance with the EEOC’s position on high school diploma requirements.

  
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Discuss this article

Marvin McConoughey December 27, 2011

Selecting good workers is becoming much easier for those who send jobs overseas than for employers who seek to stay in the United States.

The EEOC threat is remarkable for its essential evil, for its evidence of a bloated bureaucracy, and for its imposition of complexity into what is already a sufficiently difficult task.

I condemn the intrusive nature of the EEOC and the hostility it demonstrates toward employers.

Employers who are looking to hire in 2012 should consider the many advantages of doing so overseas.

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