Human Resource E-Bulletin - June 2000

Interviewing, Screening, and Hiring Individuals with Disabilities

Pre-employment and Pre-offer Guidelines:  Interviewing and Screening Individuals BEFORE a Job Offer is Extended

The Application

  • Applications may gather information on skills, abilities, training, credentials, and references.
  • Applications should not ask questions designed to elicit information about whether an applicant has a disability or about the nature or severity of  a disability.

Reasonable Accommodations and Filling out Applications

  • Employers must provide reasonable accommodations to individuals with disabilities for filling out applications.
  • Reasonable accommodations often relate to the format or time limits of tests.
  • Employers should inform applicants of any tests.
  • Applicants are responsible for requesting an accommodation for purposes of filling out an application.
  • Employers may request documentation about the existence of a disability and need for an accommodation for filling out the application, when the need is not obvious.

Job Testing

  • If job tests are given and tend to screen out individuals with disabilities, employers must show that tests are job-related  and consistent with business necessity.
  • Tests may not be administered in formats, which require the use of an impaired skill, when that skill is not related to the  performance of an essential function.

Interviewing: Pre-offer Guiding Principles

  • Employers may not make inquiries (or a series of inquiries) that are likely to elicit information about the existence or nature of a disability.
  • Employers may make inquiries about applicants' abilities.
  • Employers may inquire about an applicant's ability to perform job-related functions, with or without reasonable accommodation.  (Example:  employer may ask, "This job requires an employee to carry 20 pound bags of trash to the basement, can you, with or without reasonable accommodation perform this job function?")
  • However, employers may not inquire whether an applicant will need a reasonable accommodation to perform any job tasks.
  • Employers may ask an applicant to demonstrate or describe how she would perform job-related functions.  (Note:  employer can only ask this if s/he asks it of all applicants or of a single applicant if an obvious disability appears to affect the individual's ability to perform job functions.)

Interviewing About Drug Use

  • The illegal use of drugs is not a disability covered by the ADA; therefore employers may ask about current illegal use of drugs.
  • Prior drug addiction is a disability covered under the ADA; therefore, employers may not ask about prior illegal use of drugs.
  • Questions about legal use of drugs may only be made if a drug screen reveals the use of drugs.

Interviewing About Alcohol Use

  • Alcoholism is a covered disability.  Employers may ask applicants whether they drink alcohol, but may not ask how much one drinks or whether one is an alcoholic.  (Alcoholism does not exempt one from conduct and performance standards.)

Interviewing About Attendance

  • Employers may ask applicants whether they will be able to meet job attendance standards, with or without reasonable accommodations.  Employers may also ask about applicant's prior attendance records.

Affirmative Action

  • Employers may ask applicants to voluntarily self-identify if, and only if, the employer is implementing an affirmative action plan.  Strict guidelines exist regarding self-identification procedures.

Medical Exams

  • Medical exams are strictly prohibited, pre-job offer.  Medical exams are procedures or tests that seek information about the existence, nature or severity of an individual's physical or mental impairment, or that seek information regarding an individual's physical or psychological health.

Post-job Offer and Pre-employment Guidelines

  • Medical exams and inquiries made at this stage do not have to be job-related, as long as:
    •  -All entering employees, regardless of a disability, are required to answer the same questions and take the exams.
    •  -The information is kept separate and confidential.
  • Employers may ask specific employees for follow-up information IF the follow-up questions and exams are medically related to the information previously obtained.

Employers may not use the information gathered at this stage to screen out an individual with a disability because of his/her disability UNLESS:

The exclusionary criteria are job-related and consistent with business necessity (individual cannot perform the essential functions of the job with or without reasonable accommodation).

The individual poses a "direct threat," meaning a significant risk to the health or safety of others that  cannot be eliminated by a modification of policies, practices, or procedures, or by the provision of auxiliary aids or services.

 At the post-offer stage, when an individual requests accommodations to perform a job, the employer may require documentation of the existence of a disability as defined by the ADA and the need for a reasonable accommodation.

During Employment

Once an individual is working, the employer may not require a medical exam or make inquiries into the existence, nature or severity of a disability, UNLESS the inquiry or exam is job-related and consistent with business necessity.

Welcome to the Human Resource E-bulletin for employers, human resource professionals and others interested in learning more about how to successfully implement the employment provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act in the workplace.  On a monthly basis, you will receive information on resources, updates on litigation, EEOC guidance and policy letters that will enhance your understanding of the employment provisions of the ADA.  DLRP staff and the Outreach Manager of the Houston District office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission facilitate the HR E-bulletin.

The mission of the DLRP is to promote proactive compliance with the ADA in Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico and Oklahoma.  Based at ILRU (Independent Living Research Utilization), a program of TIRR in Houston, Texas, the DLRP is funded by NIDRR, an agency of the Department of Education, under grant #H133D60012, to provide information, materials, and technical assistance on the ADA.  NIDRR is not an enforcement agency.

Project staff are also available at 800-949-4232 from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Central Time to answer your ADA questions.  All questions are answered confidentially.

The information herein is intended solely as informal guidance and is neither a determination of your legal rights or responsibilities under the Act, nor binding on any agency with enforcement responsibility under the ADA.

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