The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission published Tuesday an updated Americans with Disabilities Act guidance containing information about how the law applies to job applicants and employees who are deaf, hard of hearing or have other hearing conditions.
EEOC said in a press release that the document answers questions about pre- and post-job offer inquiries; technologies that may enable free or low-cost reasonable accommodation; safety concerns; and new and updated scenarios of potential discrimination that address technologies such as videoconferencing software.
The guidance explains, for example, that an employer that uses videoconferencing may need to provide a service that translates voice into text at real-time speeds as an ADA accommodation.
“The practical questions and answers and realistic scenarios in this updated document will help educate employers on those responsibilities and employees about their rights,” EEOC Chair Charlotte A. Burrows said in the release.
The agency’s announcement follows several recent legal actions against employers that involved alleged disability discrimination against individuals with hearing disabilities, including two in the month of January alone.
On Jan. 17, EEOC said it agreed to a $44,250 settlement with a Colorado manufacturer over claims that the company fired a deaf employee after she complained of discrimination and requested a sign language interpreter during important meetings, in violation of the ADA.
One week prior, the agency announced a $180,000 settlement with a Minneapolis, Minnesota-based healthcare provider, which the agency alleged failed to hire an applicat who is deaf for a position due to the applicant’s disability and failed to provide a reasonable accommodation, despite the fact that the applicant was qualified and could perform the essential functions of the job.
Accommodations for workers with hearing disabilities have been a challenge since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly given the rise of remote and hybrid work, sources previously told HR Dive. For instance, employees who formerly had access to accommodations that helped them perform their jobs in an on-site setting may have had difficulties replicating those accommodations at home.
HR departments could look to resources like the Job Accommodation Network — which EEOC’s updated webpage specifically cites — for examples of potential accommodations that may assist individuals with hearing disabilities.