Heard It On The Hotline: High School Diplomas & The ADA
Featuring frequently asked questions from Trusight's Research Hotline.
Can we still require a high school diploma for entry level jobs?
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has stated that “nothing prohibits an employer from adopting a job requirement that an applicant have a high school diploma.” However, an employer should evaluate whether the qualification standard of a high school diploma is job related and consistent with business necessity.
A qualification standard is job-related and consistent with business necessity if it accurately measures the ability to perform the job’s essential functions. The EEOC states that “The employer will not be able to make this showing, for example, if the functions in question can easily be performed by someone who does not have a diploma.” After doing this evaluation, you as the employer, may determine that a high school diploma is still a job requirement for certain jobs.
However, if an applicant tells you as an employer, that she/he was unable to earn a high school diploma because of a disability that meets the ADA’s definition, then you as an employer would need to allow the applicant to demonstrate qualification for the job in some other way, to determine if he or she can perform the essential functions of the job with or without a reasonable accommodation.
In February of 2012, the EEOC provided guidance for employers, stating “Employers may continue to have high school diploma requirements and, in the vast majority of cases, they will not have to make exceptions to them.
However, if an applicant tells an employer she/he cannot meet the requirement because of a disability; an employer may have to allow her/him to demonstrate the ability to do the job in some other way. This may include considering work experience in the same or similar jobs, or allowing her/him to demonstrate performance of the job’s essential functions. The employer can require the applicant to demonstrate, perhaps through appropriate documentation, that she/he has a disability and that the disability actually prevents her/him from meeting the high school diploma requirement.”
Here are three final points about the ADA in relation to selection decisions:
- The ADA only protects someone whose disability makes it impossible for him or her to earn a high school diploma. It would not protect a person who simply decided to drop out of school and not earn a diploma.
- If a high school diploma requirement that is job-related screens out an individual because of a disability, an employer must show both that this requirement cannot be met and that the job cannot be performed with a reasonable accommodation.
- The employer is not required to hire an individual with a disability, but may still choose the most qualified candidate, nor does the employer have to prefer the candidate with a disability over someone who can perform the job better.
For more information, the EEOC has posted on it’s website a Q&A guidance document explaining the relationship between the high school diploma job requirement and the ADA. This Q&A can be found at: www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/wysk/high_school_ada.cfm.
If you have questions on this or any other HR topic, contact the Research Hotline at email@example.com or by calling 763.253.9100 and asking for the Research department.
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