The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has recently released a new resource document for employers, providing valuable guidance on how to navigate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in relation to job applicants and employees with hearing disabilities. The document explains the legal responsibilities of employers to provide fair workplaces for all employees and job applicants who need reasonable accommodations.
When it comes to asking applicants or employees disability-related questions, the guidance from the EEOC is clear. Before an offer is made, employers cannot ask questions about an applicant's hearing disability. If an applicant has an obvious hearing impairment or has voluntarily disclosed the existence of one, employers can ask if an accommodation will be needed - but only if they reasonably believe an accommodation will be needed to complete the application process or do the job. After a job offer is made, employers can ask disability-related questions, but only if they do so for all applicants for the same type of job.
Current employees can be subjected to medical inquiries when the employer reasonably believes that performance issues are disability-related. Employers can also ask employees about their hearing if they reasonably believe they will be unable to perform the job's essential functions safely.
The EEOC resource document provides a non-exhaustive list of potential accommodations that vary widely, from sign-language interpreters to assistive technology, note-taking assistance and work-area adjustments.
It's important for employers to understand their obligations under the ADA and to take steps to ensure that their workplace is inclusive and accommodating for individuals with hearing disabilities.
To read the full text of the EEOC's resource document on hearing disabilities, click here.
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