International Symbol for DeafnessA  letter recently published by the staff of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Office of Legal Counsel raises some interesting questions about how the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) might apply to new recruiting technologies. The letter is in response to questions received from an unidentified job candidate who is hearing impaired. From the context, the candidate was invited to participate in two digital interviews after applying for open positions.

Title I of the ADA prohibits discrimination by employers against a qualified individual on the basis of disability. Unless “undue hardship” can be demonstrated, employers are required to make “reasonable accommodations for known physical or mental limitations” of otherwise qualified candidates. In this case, the reasonable accommodation would involve provision of some means of enabling the digital interview for a deaf candidate or providing another method for conducting the interview.

The interview request from the first company included a statement providing an email address with instructions for the candidate, “For any other questions, or if you have concerns, you may contact me directly . . . “  In the case of the second interview request, the company included a statement discouraging contact, specifically stating that calls to the company would result in disqualification of the applicant. While the EEOC letter is for “informal discussion” and not a formal opinion, the Legal Counsel staff responds, “If this warning applies to any contact with the company, whether in person, by phone, or online, and there is no exception for reasonable accommodation requests, there may well be an ADA violation.”

The EEOC response indicates three considerations for recruiters and HR professionals who are adopting new technologies:

  1. If digital interviews are a part of the recruitment process, it is important to provide contact information through which reasonable accommodation requests can be made when needed.
  2. Practices that warn applicants that contact will result in disqualification should be carefully examined, especially if there is no contact information provided that would allow a request for reasonable accommodations.
  3. There are contingencies where digital interviews may cause difficulty for individual applicants. Companies should plan alternative options in advance in the event reasonable accommodations are requested.

The complete response is available on the EEOC website.