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Résumé reveals disability? How to respond


Don’t allow hiring managers to quickly sort résumés from disabled applicants into the “No” pile. It’s an increasingly popular practice, a new study shows, but decidedly unlawful.

Résumés that mention the applicant’s disability receive 26% fewer interview offers than identical résumés that don’t mention disability, according to a new study by researchers at Rutgers and Syracuse universities.

The study used a fictitious applicant who submitted résumés for various accounting jobs. But the résumé used three different cover letters—one that made no mention of a disability, one that cited a spinal cord injury and one that disclosed the applicant had Asperger’s Syndrome.

The highly publicized study concluded that discrimination against the disabled may be more prevalent than they had originally believed and that the ADA may not be effective enough in getting qualified disabled workers into the workforce. Currently, only 34% of working age disabled people work compared to 74% of the general working-age population.

What does the law say? Even if an employer believes it won’t be able to accommodate the person’s disability on the job, that doesn’t give it the green light to pass over the applicant during the initial hiring stages.

As the EEOC notes, disabled applicants “should not be excluded from the applicant process because the employer speculates … that it will be unable to provide the individual with a reasonable accommodation to perform the job.” (see below)

Final note: Think twice before you reject an application from an otherwise qualified candidate who revealed a disability or a need for a reasonable accommodation in the hiring process.

You may be passing over someone who would be an excellent fit for the position. Even worse, the application may be a test for disability bias. Either way, the applicant (or the testing group) may sue.

EEOC view: Accommodations for interviews and pre-hire tests

Q. Does your organization have to provide accommodations for disabled applicants to apply, even if you don’t think you’ll be able to offer a reasonable accommodation on the job?

A. Yes. According to the EEOC, “An employer must provide a reasonable accommodation to a qualified applicant with a disability that will enable the individual to have an equal opportunity to participate in the application process and to be considered for a job (unless it can show undue hardship). Thus, individuals with disabilities who meet initial requirements to be considered for a job should not be excluded from the application process because the employer speculates, based on a request for reasonable  accommodation for the application process, that it will be unable to provide the individual with reasonable accommodation to perform the job …

“Thus, an employer should assess the need for accommodations for the application process separately from those that may be needed to perform the job.

Example: An employer is impressed with an applicant’s resume and contacts the individual to come in for an interview. The applicant, who is deaf, requests a sign language interpreter for the interview. The employer cancels the interview and refuses to consider further this applicant because it believes it would have to hire a full-time interpreter. The employer has violated the ADA. The employer should have proceeded with the interview, using a sign language interpreter (absent undue hardship), and at the interview inquired to what extent the individual would need a sign language interpreter to perform any essential functions requiring communication with other people.”