Employment Law Blog

News, trends and analysis in employment law and HR

Mar 06, 2012

EEOC clarifies stance on use of high school diploma as job requirement

DisabilityHiring 
The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has received a great deal of commentary on an informal discussion letter they issued several months ago, which discussed possible discrimination issues involved with requiring a high school diploma as a job requirement.

The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has received a great deal of commentary on an informal discussion letter they issued several months ago, which discussed possible discrimination issues involved with requiring a high school diploma as a job requirement. According to the EEOC, requiring a high school diploma as a job requirement may improperly exclude individuals with disabilities, who may have faced difficulty passing high school due to their disability. In order for the diploma requirement to pass the EEOC’s scrutiny, it must be job-related and consistent with business necessity; otherwise its adverse impact on disabled individuals would run afoul of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In response to the comments they’ve received, the EEOC recently issued a clarifying letter to offer further guidance on when employers may require a high school diploma for a particular job position. The EEOC offers several questions and answers, which help flesh out their guidance about when a high school diploma can be required. Primarily the EEOC wants employers to know that requiring a high school diploma for a particular position is okay as long as it relates to the job being performed; arbitrarily requiring a high school diploma when the job doesn’t require that level of education could potentially violate the ADA.

 

Tips: Anytime you establish a job requirement, you should evaluate to make sure it is job-related and consistent with business necessity. Creating requirements that aren’t truly related to the job being performed creates a risk that the standard will unfairly exclude a category of people based on a protected class (e.g. disability). If you need assistance evaluating your job-related standards, contact your Vigilant staff representative. For general information about the ADA, see our Legal Guide, “At a Glance: Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)" (6016).

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