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Tell managers: You must let disabled applicants prove merit

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Employment Law,Human Resources

Disability rights groups sometimes target specific employers to see whether they harbor latent disability discrimination tendencies. An advocate will call a prospective employer and inquire about an open position. The prospective employer can’t say no to an interview without risking a disability lawsuit.

But agreeing to the interview is only the beginning. That meeting must be as professional as possible.

Recent case: A man who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia disorder asked a vocational counselor he knew to help him apply for a part-time driver position with The Salvation Army. The counselor arranged an interview.

John Doe, the name the court allowed him to use in his lawsuit to conceal his identity, told the interviewer he couldn’t work on Fridays because he had set appointments with his doctor to “pick up medicine.” The interviewer asked what kind of medication he took, and Doe said “psychotropic.”

According to Doe, the interviewer abruptly ended the meeting, saying he needed to check whether the organization’s insurance policy would allow Doe to work.

Doe sued for disability discrimination and found out the interviewer never checked on insurance or anything else.

The trial court dismissed his case, but the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed and ordered a trial. It said there was evidence that might lead a jury to conclude that The Salvation Army didn’t hire Doe because he had a record of impairment. In addition, Doe never had a chance to show he could do the job despite his disability.

By abruptly ending the interview, the interviewer exposed the employer to potential liability. (Doe v. The Salvation Army, No. 07-3822, 6th Cir., 2008)

Note: Although there is no indication this was a disability rights “sting,” be aware that some “candidates” apply to test whether employers comply with anti-discrimination laws.

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