The number of lawsuits, claims and settlements’ involving dealerships and the EEOC continues to grow in 2010. Beyond gender and age discrimination employees must also ensure that they do not discriminate against individuals with real or perceived disabilities. Just this month a dealership in Hawaii settled a claim that included a $32,500 payment to a job applicant and a three year consent decree to remedy alleged disability discrimination. The consent decree requires that the dealership implement an internal policy, procedures and staff training to safeguard against disability discrimination. The car dealership must also submit annual reports to the EEOC to track future complaints of disability bias and requests for disability-related accommodations during the hiring process.
In its lawsuit (EEOC v. Valley Isle Motors, Ltd., Case No. CV09-0053 HG KSC), the EEOC asserted that the car dealership reneged on an offer to hire a job applicant as a salesperson only after a urine test revealed he was taking prescribed medication. Valley Isle Motors then erroneously perceived the applicant as too disabled to do the job despite normal medical test results and medical authorization to the contrary, the EEOC said. The EEOC press release quoted Anna Y. Parks, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Los Angeles District Office. “Employers cannot make assumptions about a prospective employee’s ability to work… the ADA expressly prohibits that stereotypes of this nature weigh into the decision to hire or deny hire to an individual.” Timothy Riera, director of the EEOC’s Honolulu Local Office, added “Employers should heed the lesson learned by Valley Isle Motors and be mindful to judge a candidate by his or her qualifications, not some ill-informed presumption. Communication with prospective employees is the key in determining whether one’s actual or perceived condition will interfere with work. Businesses should take advantage of appropriate training opportunities that are available to learn how to appropriately engage in that interactive process.”
The bottom line is that employers cannot make an assumption about the candidate’s ability to perform the work and must make certain that all hiring practices are in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Here are five simple steps that will help toward ensuring that you are not discriminatory toward individuals with real or perceived disabilities.
1) Have a clear, complete and detailed job description for every position so that you can objectively judge a candidate’s ability to do the job against the actual requirements.
2) Confirm with a medical expert that the applicant can do the job with reasonable accommodations or that the perceived disability is even real. A medical exam may be necessary and your expert should have experience in Occupational or Workplace Health.
3) Consider that individuals with disabilities often make high quality and loyal employees. Tax credits may be available to assist companies with making reasonable accommodation and for hiring individuals with disabilities.
4) Take advantage of the tools and training available through your state or federal office of the Department of Labor including the excellent information on the EEOC website. http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/disability.cfm
5) Consult with qualified legal hiring prior to not hiring any individual with a disability.