Be careful if your HR department lists a high school diploma as a requirement for getting hired. That could be illegal.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has made an odd call on this one: Under certain circumstances, requiring applicants to have a high school diploma will violate the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The ruling comes in the form of an “informal discussion letter” from the EEOC in response to an employer that uses a high school diploma as a hiring criterion. (Discussion letters themselves don’t carry the weight of law, but do indicate which way the agency might rule on an issue.)
How is it possible that an education requirement might violate the disability act?
The answer comes straight from the discussion letter:
… 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.
In other words, to list a high school diploma as a requirement, you must show that the requirement is job related, especially if an applicant has a learning disability. How might you show that?
The agency doesn’t specifically address that question. All the letter mentions is that the diploma must be a prerequisite for performing “essential functions of the job.” Neither does the letter mention how you might determine whether the applicant has a disability, unless the applicant tells you.