Applicants are protected from discrimination based on disability, and they’re entitled to reasonable accommodations during the application process. But applicants aren’t required to disclose their disabilities if they don’t want to.
As an employer, you’ve probably learned to ignore apparent disabilities because you could end up violating the ADA if you inquire about disabilities.
That doesn’t mean, however, that you’ll run afoul of the law if you do something as simple as offering assistance to someone who is having trouble navigating stairs or getting on the elevator.
Recent case: When Louis Toscano arrived for an interview with Warren County, several employees offered to help him as he approached the elevator.
Toscano didn’t get the job and sued, alleging the county had regarded him as disabled.
But the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals tossed out the case, concluding that simply offering help isn’t disability discrimination. (Toscano v. Warren County, No. 08-3993, 3rd Cir., 2009)
Final note: Do practice common courtesy when it comes to obvious disabilities. At the same time, offer employees training in how to deal with disabled applicants, customers and clients. All too often, people with disabilities are offended because they perceive they are being treated like helpless children.
Train employees to avoid speaking down to anyone, disabled or not. Offer help as you would to anyone who needs it.
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