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Won’t hire high school dropouts? EEOC could flunk your company

April 13, 2012 by Lee James
Posted in: Employment law, In this week's e-newsletter, Latest News and Views, Legal and compliance, Recruiting

You wouldn’t hire someone who didn’t have a high school diploma, right? Not anymore. Now you could be in big trouble if you automatically reject dropouts. Why is Uncle Sam suddenly sticking his nose in your HR business?

Blame the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

The federal agency has issued a directive that companies requiring a high school diploma for specific jobs could run afoul of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

What’s the logic here?

By establishing a high school education as a requirement for hiring, the company could unknowingly find itself in trouble with the ADA.

The reason: A requirement like this could unfairly deny a class of people who might still be qualified for the job but have a learning disability — and that’s why they failed to finish high school.

The EEOC says you can’t rule out this population on such simple criteria.

There are ways you can protect your company from becoming liable to lawsuits because of your hiring policies.

Further guidance from the EEOC:

  • If a job applicant didn’t earn a diploma due to a physical or learning disability, he or she is allowed to demonstrate their qualifications for the job in other ways.
  • This legal umbrella covers only people who couldn’t graduate because of their disability. If someone simply dropped out of school, you’re not legally required to consider them for the job.
  • This rule does not mean you must hire someone who doesn’t have a high school diploma but is otherwise eligible for the job. You still can choose the best candidate from the field of applicants.

This rule means you can’t out-of-hand reject someone because they failed to finish high school.

The EEOC has a Q&A that addresses many concerns from employers.

Have you ever encountered a situation where you think federal requirements made your job more difficult? Please share in the box below.


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