The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has announced new guidance regarding how the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to those with hearing difficulties. As such, the resource document entitled “Hearing Disabilities in the Workplace and the Americans with Disabilities Act” has become available for employers and applicants to reference.

This guidance provides details concerning what may violate the ADA. It includes examples involving various questions and screening-related practices that affect hearing disabilities, both before and after job offers. In most cases, employers may not ask questions about a hearing disability before a conditional job offer. After making this offer, an employer may ask questions and require a medical examination. However, they must treat all employees equally. For example, all questions or exams must apply to all employees, not just anyone with disabilities.

In addition, this document describes technologies that allow employers to offer reasonable accommodations. It further details means employers can provide such accommodations to applicants and employees with hearing disabilities for little to no cost. In these cases, an employer must engage in the interactive process to offer reasonable accommodation using these new developments. 

The guidance also addresses potential safety concerns. Such concerns include the safety of hiring applicants who are hard of hearing, deaf, or possess other hearing disabilities. When addressing these concerns, it also discusses potential discrimination scenarios and how to avoid them.

According to the EEOC Chair, Charlotte A. Burrows, “Employers have a legal responsibility to create fair workplaces for all employees and job applicants who need reasonable accommodations. The practical questions and answers and realistic scenarios in this updated document will help educate employers on those responsibilities and employees about their rights.”

Furthermore, the resource document details how discrimination often occurs because of baseless assumptions. For example, it mentions how employers typically assume employees with hearing disabilities create workplace hazards, increase expenses, or struggle to communicate with others. However, the document has indicated otherwise. In most cases, applicants and employees with hearing disabilities can perform successfully in any given position. As such, employers cannot deny them opportunities due to stereotypes about their capabilities.

The “Hearing Disabilities in the Workplace and the Americans with Disabilities Act” is a valuable resource for employers as it offers important guidance to help them adhere to federal requirements during the hiring and employment processes. However, even with this guidance, employers may may still find it too easy to unintentionally discriminate during the hiring process. 

Employers should consider working with a background check provider to ensure that their screening process remains compliant with regulations. By partnering with a reputable provider, employers can receive current guidance and background reports that are compliant with the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

Information provided here is for educational and informational purposes only and should not constitute as legal advice. We recommend you contact your own legal counsel for any questions regarding your specific practices and compliance with applicable laws.