Job applicants aren’t required to reveal disabilities during the hiring process. Many disabled applicants don’t because they fear they won’t be seriously considered if they reveal their disability too early.
That means you may occasionally find yourself making a job offer to someone you don’t realize is disabled. Then, after he has your offer in hand, you learn that he needs reasonable accommodations.
At that point, what you say and what you do may mean the difference between smoothly integrating a new employee into the workforce and a costly, drawn-out lawsuit.
The right approach: Start the interactive accommodations process. Two goals: (1) Assess whether the employee is disabled and entitled to accommodations. (2) Explore accommodations.
The wrong approach: Revoking the job offer.
Recent case: Brian Black applied for a job with Mission Hospital as a technical software engineer associate. After a successful interview, Black got an offer. He accepted and underwent a physical. That exam revealed that he had partial colorblindness.
Black then requested a reasonable accommodation that would allow him to use the hospital’s computer systems. Instead, a week passed, and the hospital revoked Black’s job offer.
He sued, alleging that it would have been easy to make the software changes. A jury will now decide whether that’s the case. (Black v. Mission Hospital, No. 1:1-CV-146, WD NC, 2012)
Final note: Always consider accommodations before revoking an offer. If no accommodation is possible, you will at least have clear documentation to point to if you are sued. Remember that you have already admitted that the applicant is otherwise qualified for the job because you extended him an offer. The only remaining questions are whether the disability is one covered by the ADA and whether that disability can be accommodated.
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