EEOC Releases New ADA Guidance for Employers and Background Screening Companies
As employers navigate the hiring process and the many regulations that apply, their concerns about compliance most often revolve around the vetting process. Those concerns lead many employers to work with experienced background screening companies to help them understand what regulations apply to them and how to stay within the bounds of the law. However, there is another area where businesses must be cautious during hiring: complying with the provisions of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).
Employers want to be sure they hire trustworthy individuals, but selecting those who can complete job tasks efficiently is equally important. The ADA aims to reduce discrimination against those who aren’t non-disabled by directing when and how employers may consider medical information in the hiring process. The ADA also stipulates that employers must consider whether someone can complete job duties with or without reasonable accommodations. In other words, if someone can do the job with specific allowances, you cannot deny them the job solely because they wouldn't be capable of it without said accommodations or allowance.
These regulations can be confusing, and the text of the ADA is not always clear on every matter. To provide better guidance for employers, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) periodically releases or revises guidelines for understanding one's responsibilities. In January 2023, the EEOC released new guidelines on hiring individuals with hearing impairments. These rules are separate from the laws governing employment background screening but are equally important.
What To Know About the New Guidelines
The new guidance is extensive and covers many areas, including:
- Defining how to determine whether a hearing impairment is a disability under the ADA
- Defining what kinds of dismissals or application denials are impermissible
- Explains when and how applicants and employers must discuss potential accommodations
- Explains when an employer may require a medical examination to determine suitability for the job.
All employers should review the EEOC guidelines fully. However, there are three main takeaways to remember. First, you may only request a medical examination after extending a conditional offer if every applicant must undergo the same process, not just those with obvious or disclosed impairments.
Second, you must assess accommodations for the application process separately from those the individual may need on the job. Finally, there are very narrow circumstances when employers can deny a job based on hearing impairment. According to the EEOC, this is only permissible when there would be a direct and real threat to safety on the job if the individual were allowed into the role.
These new guidelines aim to expand access to job roles for those with hearing impairments. Many align with similar guidance issued for other disability accommodations under the ADA. With complex legal jargon and shifting regulations, professional input can be a valuable tool for continuing to select top talent without exposing your business to legal risks. However, like you might confer with background screening companies following changes in employment law, you may wish to speak to a lawyer familiar with the ADA to ensure your policies remain in compliance.
About Michael Klazema The author
Michael Klazema is the lead author and editor for Dallas-based backgroundchecks.com with a focus on human resource and employment screening developments