Employment Law Report

EEOC: ADA May Be Implicated in Requiring New Hires to Have a High School Diploma

By Edwin S. Hopson

Recently, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued a “Questions and Answers” piece about informal guidance it had offered on November 11, 2011, about how the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to qualification standards for jobs.  Specifically addressed was a typical qualification for new hires at many companies – the high school diploma.  On November 11, the EEOC had opined that:

 “… if an employer adopts a high school diploma requirement for a job, and that requirement “screens out” an individual who is unable to graduate because of a learning disability that meets the ADA’s definition of ‘disability,’ the employer may not apply the standard unless it can demonstrate that the diploma requirement is job related and consistent with business necessity. The employer will not be able to make this showing, for example, if the functions in question can easily be performed by someone who does not have a diploma.”

 The EEOC went on to state that “[e]ven if the diploma requirement is job related and consistent with business necessity, the employer may still have to determine whether a particular applicant whose learning disability prevents him from meeting it can perform the essential functions of the job, with or without a reasonable accommodation.”

 The letter can be found at:


In the recent “Question and Answer” piece, the EEOC noted that there had been “significant commentary and conjecture” about the informal guidance and attempted to clarify EEOC’s position.  The agency denied that it had made it illegal for companies to require a high school diploma be possessed by a new hire.  However, EEOC stated:  “However, an employer may have to allow someone who says that a disability has prevented him from obtaining a high school diploma to demonstrate qualification for the job in some other way.”

 To review the full “Question and Answer” piece, click on: