When evaluating applicants, you may consider whether their current health affects their ability to do the job, but you can’t factor in old injuries or medical conditions.
Case in point: Kaiser Aluminum recently agreed to pay a spurned applicant $175,000 and hire him after he filed a disability bias complaint with the EEOC. The man was qualified for a production worker position at the company’s Spokane, Wash., plant. But Kaiser refused to hire him because his medical record revealed he was injured at a previous workplace more than 10 years before.
His EEOC complaint alleged that violated the ADA. When conciliation efforts failed, the EEOC sued on the man’s behalf.
Kaiser agreed to settle the case instead of going to trial. In addition to paying the money and hiring the man, Kaiser agreed to overhaul its hiring practices to conform with the ADA.
The ADA bars employers from discriminating against qualified workers based on a “record of disability.” Policies and practices that disqualify applicants based on past injuries or illnesses without evaluating their current condition violate the ADA. Employers may only consider the applicant’s current condition, not any past injuries or illnesses.
Employers’ ADA obligations
The ADA requires employers to:
1. Determine whether the applicant has the skills and experience to perform the job.
2. If he or she does, the employer may make a conditional job offer pending a physical examination.
3. If the examination reveals any current limitations, the employer must determine whether those limitations prevent the applicant from performing any of the job’s essential functions.
4. If so, the employer and applicant must determine if reasonable accommodations would allow the applicant to perform the job’s essential functions.
Only if no reasonable accommodations can be found may the employer refuse to hire a qualified applicant.