Best Practices for Hiring People With Disabilities at Your Nonprofit
Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as amended prohibits employment discrimination by all employers— including local government employers—with 15 or more employees. The following sections—the application, the interview and landing the job—will provide you with information about the details of Title I and how it may apply to hiring practices at your organization or agency.
Best Practice Tip: Provide written job descriptions to all job applicants. Job applicants may request a written job description when they apply, so they can determine if they perform the essential functions of the job with or without accommodations. An applicant is not required to disclose a disability until after a formal offer of employment is made. An applicant or employee with a disability has the right to reasonable accommodations at work, and the right to be considered for a job without regard to disability.
Screen your job applications or online application software for disability-related questions, as these are illegal both on a job application and during a job interview. Here are some examples:
- Did you attend special classes in school?
- Do you have a disability?
- How many days were you sick last year?
- How much alcohol do you drink weekly?
- Have you ever been treated for mental health problems?
- Have you ever been injured on a job?
- What prescription drugs are you taking?
- Have you ever been hospitalized? If so, for what condition?
- Have you ever been treated by a psychiatrist or psychologist? For what condition(s)?
- Have you had a major illness in the last five years?
- Have you ever been treated for drug or alcohol addiction?
For affirmative-action purposes, a job application may have a voluntary question that asks if the applicant has a disability. The applicant does not have to answer this question unless he or she wants to volunteer the information.
As an employer, you are allowed to ask legitimate job-related questions. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), in its enforcement guidance on pre-employment inquiries and medical examinations, lists the following examples of questions that an employer may ask applicants: Can you perform the functions of the job? What reasonable accommodations do you need to perform the essential functions of the job?
The Job Interview
Best Practice Tip: When an employee requests an accommodation, document your follow-up. Ordinarily, you cannot ask applicants whether they have a disability or whether they need any accommodations. However, the EEOC indicates in its enforcement guidance that an employer may ask an applicant questions about reasonable accommodations based on any of the following: if the applicant has an obvious disability and the employer reasonably believes the applicant will need an accommodation; if the applicant voluntarily discloses a hidden disability and the employer believes an accommodation will be needed; or if the applicant tells the employer that he or she will need an accommodation.
It is illegal for employers to ask questions about medical history during the application and interview process. It is also illegal for your organization to require applicants to submit to an examination prior to being offered a job. If a medical examination is required of all employees in that position, then an applicant may be offered employment conditional on passage of the exam. However, as the employer, you cannot rescind an employment offer based on a disability the examination discloses, unless the disability would prevent the applicant from performing the essential functions of the job.
On the Job
An employer is not required to provide a reasonable accommodation for a disability of which he or she is unaware. Once you are informed of a disability and the need for an accommodation, you may ask for documentation of the disability and may, at agency expense, have a doctor examine the employee, in order to evaluate whether he or she needs an accommodation and, if so, what will best assist the employee in performing job duties successfully. You are not required to provide the exact accommodation requested. You may suggest an alternative accommodation. This discussion is called the “interactive process” and is legally required under the ADA.