On January 24, 2023, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released updated guidance describing how the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to job applicants and employees with hearing disabilities.
The ADA prohibits private employers with 15 or more employees, state and local governments, employment agencies and labor unions from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities in job application procedures, hiring, firing, advancement, compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment. An employer is required to make a reasonable accommodation to the known disability of a qualified applicant or employee if it would not impose an “undue hardship” on the operation of the employer’s business.
Key highlights of the updated guidance include:
- When an employer may ask an applicant or employee questions about a hearing condition and how it should treat voluntary disclosures;
- What types of reasonable accommodations applicants or employees with hearing disabilities may need;
- How an employer should handle safety concerns about applicants and employees with hearing disabilities; and
- How an employer can ensure that no employee is harassed because of a hearing disability or any other disability.
Next Steps for Employers
Covered employers should review this updated guidance. To reduce claims of discrimination recruiters and hiring managers should be trained on reasonable accommodation under federal and state law, in addition to, the organization’s accommodation policies and procedures including maintaining confidentiality and knowing when an applicant’s or an employee’s conduct or statements may trigger a need to engage in the interactive process.
Multistate employers should also be mindful that several states have laws prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of disability and state law may apply to employers with less than 15 employees. These laws may provide additional protections which exceed those granted under the ADA, as a result, employers should be mindful of any applicable federal, state and local to ensure compliance.
Employers are also encouraged to consult with legal counsel for situations where they believe that providing an accommodation may pose an undue hardship.