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Overview of the ADA policy and how it impacts hiring


The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a key piece of equal opportunity law in the United States. The ADA policy impacts how most employers operate, including during the hiring process. Violating the ADA can result in legal penalties, financial damages, and harm to your organization's reputation.

Just knowing you shouldn’t discriminate against a job applicant with a disability isn’t enough to comply fully with the ADA. You must also take proactive steps to avoid unconscious bias and establish a fair process for all applicants. 

Below, we explain what the ADA policy entails and how to avoid ADA violations.

What is the ADA policy?

The ADA is a federal law that applies to employers with 15 or more employees in all US states. It protects the rights of individuals with disabilities in various aspects of their lives, including employment. 

For example, an employee may request an accommodation to their work environment or work schedule that will enable them to perform the job. When the request is reasonable, their employer must accommodate it. 

The ADA says that employers don’t have to provide accommodations if doing so would cause them “undue hardship” because of cost, difficulty, or both. 

The ADA applies to all aspects of employment, from hiring to termination. 

How does the ADA policy impact hiring?

ADA policy protects individuals during the entire hiring process – even before they’re hired. As an employer, you can't discriminate against qualified individuals with disabilities during any stage of the hire process, from advertising the position to evaluating candidates to onboarding your new hire. You must ensure each aspect of the process is accessible to individuals with disabilities.

Applicants with disabilities can request reasonable accommodations during this process. Such accommodations ensure they can participate fully and equitably in the selection process.

5 examples of ADA violations

Despite the protections provided by the ADA, job applicants still face discrimination and unfair hiring practices. Prevent this from happening in your business by avoiding these common ADA violations:

5 examples of ada violations graphic

1. Exclusive job postings 

You can’t put statements in job postings that are meant to discourage individuals with disabilities from applying. For example, you shouldn’t say that your company is “seeking energetic candidates who can work in a fast-paced environment without needing special adjustments or breaks.”   

2. Discriminatory screening practices

Some employers may use screening criteria that inadvertently prompt discrimination against individuals with disabilities. For instance, asking about an applicant's medical history or requiring unnecessary medical examinations can be violations. These can lead you to exclude qualified candidates based on their disabilities rather than their skills.

3. Inaccessible application process

Your online application process must be accessible to applicants with disabilities. Failing to make it accessible can prevent these individuals from applying. For example, online forms that are incompatible with screen readers may violate ADA because visually impaired candidates might not be able to access them. 

4. Failure to provide reasonable accommodations

One of the most common ADA violations is not providing reasonable accommodations. An example of a reasonable accommodation is closed captioning on an onboarding video. The type of accommodations you must provide depend on individual needs.

5. Stereotyping and prejudice

Making assumptions about an applicant's abilities can lead to discrimination. An example of this would be assuming that a person with a mobility impairment can’t perform a job that primarily involves desk work.

How to avoid violating ADA during your hiring process

Complying with the ADA is an ongoing process that requires consistent effort. Set up your hiring teams for a fair hiring process by following these steps: 

Educate your team

Invest in thorough ADA training for your entire hiring team. This should include all managers and staff involved in the recruitment process. Ensure understanding of ADA regulations, including the nuances of accommodating different disabilities. 

Training should include:

  • how to recognize potential violations

  • why fostering an inclusive environment is important

  • how to provide appropriate accommodations

Develop accessible application processes

Some of the steps you can take to make your hiring process accessible include:

  • Alternative application methods. Look beyond your online application. Allow candidates to submit applications through other methods, like through postal mail or in person.

  • Accessible online forms. Set up online application forms with accessible design features. Common features include screen reader compatibility and keyboard navigation. Alternative text can help individuals with visual impairment understand each image’s purpose.

  • Clear method for requesting accommodations. Put a prominent statement on application forms about accommodation requests. Clearly state that you allow requests, and include contact information.

  • Pre-employment testing accommodations. Use a pre-employment testing provider that allows candidates to request accommodations. 

Engage in an interactive process in hiring

A key step in ADA compliance is your duty to engage in an interactive process. This occurs when you discuss a candidate's disability with them or their healthcare provider to identify appropriate accommodations.

When an applicant requests an accommodation, you must engage in the interactive process in good faith. Keep an open mind and consider the candidate’s unique needs and circumstances. Different disabilities will require different responses.

Follow a structured approach for all requests to ensure fairness:

  • Listen and acknowledge. First, listen to the applicant's request and acknowledge it. Show that you take their needs seriously.

  • Engage in a dialogue. Initiate a conversation with the applicant to better understand their specific accommodation needs. Ask questions to fully understand the request. All parties should understand how the accommodation will enable a fair candidate evaluation.

  • Explore options. Work together to explore potential accommodations. Be open to creative solutions. Consider all options that meet the applicant's needs while still allowing you to evaluate them effectively.

  • Evaluate requests. Evaluate each request based on cost, business impact, and support of fair candidate evaluation. You may also consider whether an ongoing accommodation fundamentally alters the nature of the job. When the requested accommodation isn't reasonable, discuss alternative solutions.

  • Document the process. Maintain clear and accurate records of the interactive process. Document the request, discussions, agreed-upon accommodations, and any reasons for denying a specific accommodation, if applicable.

  • Implement the accommodation. Once you’ve identified an appropriate accommodation, put it into practice. Make any necessary arrangements to provide the accommodation during the hiring process. 

  • Maintain confidentiality. Keep all information related to the applicant's disability and accommodation request confidential. Only share this information with those who need to know, such as HR personnel and relevant interviewers.

  • Follow up. Once an accommodation is in place, check in with the applicant to ensure it’s effective and meets their needs. Be open to making adjustments if required.

Understand reasonable accommodations

The goal of interactive processes is to identify reasonable accommodations that will contribute to a fair hiring process. Consider familiarizing yourself with commonly requested accommodations. This will help you plan for how your business will respond should they come up.  

Common reasonable accommodations granted during the hiring process include:

  • Extended time for assessments. Allow extra time for candidates with disabilities to complete assessments. This can apply to written tests, skills assessments, or online assessments.

  • Accessible interview facilities. Ensure that the interview location is physically accessible to individuals with mobility impairments. Provide accessible parking if needed.

  • Sign Language interpreters. Provide qualified sign language interpreters for deaf or hard-of-hearing candidates. 

  • Assistive technology. Offer access to assistive technology or software. These tools help candidates with disabilities perform tasks or access information.

  • Accessible documents. Provide job-related documents, such as application forms or training materials, in accessible formats. Common formats include large print, Braille, or digital versions compatible with screen readers.

  • Flexible scheduling. Adjust interview times to accommodate candidates with disability-related commitments. For example, schedule around medical appointments or therapy sessions.

  • Quiet or sensory-friendly spaces. Provide a quiet or sensory-friendly space. This can help candidates who may be sensitive to noise or sensory stimuli during interviews.

  • Assistance animals. Allow candidates who use service animals to bring them to the interview location, provided the animal doesn’t pose a safety risk.

  • Accessible transportation. Offer accessible transportation options or reimbursements. This is to assist candidates who may have difficulty getting to the interview location independently.

Some requests might not be reasonable. An unreasonable accommodation might entail an applicant asking a small company to provide an expensive, specialized interpreter for a single interview when other effective communication methods, like written communication, are available and meet the applicant's needs.

Adopt anti-discrimination policies

While the ADA doesn’t require policies, adopting a clear policy prohibiting discrimination helps set the right expectations in your workforce. Should you do this, enforce your policy strictly and ensure that it addresses disability discrimination. Encourage employees to report any discriminatory behavior.

Conduct regular audits

Audit your hiring practices, materials, and online platforms regularly. Identify and rectify any unfair hiring practices or potential ADA violations. 

Use pre-employment testing 

Using pre-employment testing to assess your job applicants enables you to focus on what matters – their job-specific skills, cognitive abilities, and team fit. This helps you to avoid unconscious bias by enabling you to focus on objective, measurable qualities rather than irrelevant qualities (like disabilities). Not only does this lead to fairer hiring practices – it leads to more workplace diversity. 

TestGorilla is a pre-employment testing platform with 300+ tests you can choose from to fairly assess your candidates. You can combine multiple tests into single assessments to gain a comprehensive understanding of each candidate’s suitability for your role and organization.  

How TestGorilla supports ADA compliance in your hiring process

The ADA is a crucial legal protection. It ensures equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities. By understanding the ADA's impact on hiring, recognizing potential violations, and taking proactive steps to accommodate applicants with disabilities, you can create a more inclusive and equitable workforce.

Pre-employment testing helps reduce bias in the hiring process, including bias against disabilities. However, you need the right testing partner to ensure ADA compliance.

TestGorilla asks candidates to indicate right from the start if they need testing accommodations. Many suitable accommodations can be made directly through the testing platform. This reduces the need for candidates to share unnecessary information with employers. Complex requests that go beyond the scope of testing are shared with the employer with the applicant’s permission. 

You can trust TestGorilla to support a fair and unbiased hiring process. Take our product tour today. 


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