Does an employer’s high school diploma requirement for job applicants violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”)?

Employment Attorney Bob SheaBy: Bob Shea

In November 2011 the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) published a “discussion letter” in which the EEOC stated that an employer’s high school diploma requirement that “screens out” an individual who is unable to graduate from high school because of a learning disability (that meets the ADA’s definition of a “disability”) is unlawful unless the employer can demonstrate that the diploma requirement is “job related and consistent with business necessity.” An employer would not be able to make this showing if, for example, the position’s job functions could easily be performed by someone without a high school diploma.

Because EEOC’s letter caused “significant commentary and conjecture” about its meaning and scope, the EEOC has now issued a “guidance” to clarify that employers are not prohibited from adopting a requirement that a job applicant have a high school diploma. However, the guidance states “an employer may have to allow someone who says that a disability has prevented him from obtaining a high school diploma to demonstrate qualification for the job in some other way.”

Please visit this EEOC site for the full guidance.

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