- The use of digital interviews during the recruiting process does not necessarily violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a senior attorney adviser for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) wrote in an informal discussion letter published Sept. 7.
- But because the ADA requires that employers make accommodations for applicants or employees with disabilities, a "company must provide a reasonable accommodation, if requested, to enable an applicant to use the digital interview format effectively, or must provide another method for conducting an interview," EEOC said in the reply letter. Barring an "undue hardship," an ADA violation would result if the company refused to make such an accommodation, or if it failed to do so in a timely manner, the commission said.
- The letter, the adviser specified, is not an official opinion of the EEOC.
The ADA may seem simple enough, but it can wreak havoc on a business when recruiters, hiring managers and others don't engage in the protocols it necessitates. The letter provides a perfect example. If a person who is deaf applies to a job that conducts interviews only via video, the candidate can make it known to the employer that he or she needs an accommodation to interview that way — or a different type of interview entirely. The onus transfers to the employer at that point; it's up to the hiring manager or HR to work some magic and provide an alternative.
Simple, right? Unfortunately, the courts have heard case after case describing how a situation like this can go wrong. Earlier this month, a circuit court sent a UPS employee's ADA claim to trial. The employee alleged that she was fired from UPS because of her impairment and that she was, among other things, snubbed when she tried to discuss her limitations. She also said her supervisor complained she "had been a constant pain in my butt." That's not a report any employer wants to hear about a supervisor, especially in court.
David K. Fram, director of the National Employment Law Institute's ADA & Equal Employment Opportunity Services, has implored employers to train supervisors to say five words when responding to any situation in this realm: "How can I help you?" This question will ensure that any ADA-related discussion will at least start off legally sound, he told attendees at a recent conference. Once managers have learned that phrase, the training can't stop there. Employers and HR folks wanting to avoid ADA claims will need to teach supervisors to engage in the interactive process, ask the right questions, keep private information confidential, go out of their way to provide accommodations and, of course, document everything.