Job Applicants with Disabilities: Part 2 – Requesting Reasonable Accommodation
This guest post article is written by LegalMatch.
What Can an Employer Ask Me During an Interview?
Under the ADA and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, interviewers typically cannot ask you questions about your health or abilities unless it concerns the job’s essential functions. For example, if you are applying for a position that requires the repetitive lifting of 50 pounds, the company can ask you about your lifting tolerances. An employer also cannot ask you about your gender, national origin, race, genetic information, religion, or membership in another protected class.
However, there are certain circumstances when an employer can ask about reasonable accommodations:
- A prospective employer can ask you if you will need a reasonable accommodation during the interview process.
- If your disability is obvious (for example, due to use of a wheelchair or other assistive device), an employer can ask about your need for reasonable accommodations.
- Once a conditional offer of employment is made, your employer can always ask you about your need for job-related accommodations.
You do not have to answer inappropriate questions about your disability. Instead, politely deflect or change the subject. And, if you have concerns about questions concerning your disability during an interview, contact the EEOC or an employment lawyer immediately.
Should I Address my Disability During a Job Interview?
If your disability is obvious, you might consider addressing the proverbial “elephant in the room” and face it head-on. This can provide certain benefits:
- You can provide advice about reasonable accommodations that have worked for you in the past.
- Candidly discussing your disabilities demonstrates confidence.
- Openness with your employer about your condition and prognosis might build goodwill if you are hired and need time off for disability-related reasons.
However, disclosing a disability is a very personal decision. It is completely acceptable to wait until you receive a job offer before discussing your need for reasonable accommodations.
What Should I Do if an Employer Violates the ADA?
If a company refuses your reasonable accommodation or wrongfully denies you a job, you should immediately contact an employment lawyer, the EEOC, and your state’s civil rights agency. There typically are strict filing deadlines in civil rights cases. For example, you must file an ADA employment discrimination charge within 180 or 300 days of the discrimination. (Your filing deadline will vary depending on where you live and work.) If you file a complaint after these deadlines expire, the agency or court will not review your claim and you will lose your right to compensation.
Once you file a discrimination complaint with the EEOC, it will perform an investigation. Depending on its findings, the agency might:
- File a federal lawsuit on your behalf,
- Negotiate a settlement resolving your claim, or
- Issue a “right to sue” letter, allowing you to file your own lawsuit.
While you can handle an employment discrimination claim on your own, many disabled workers choose to retain a lawyer—especially once the EEOC issues a “right to sue” letter. ADA claims are procedurally and factually complicated. An experienced ADA or discrimination lawyer will help you navigate the claims process and help you receive the compensation you deserve.
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