Education requirements have long been a common, almost standard, part of job postings. But have you ever stopped to consider the lawfulness of this particular prerequisite? The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has.
A recent EEOC letter opines that, under the Americans with Disabilities Act, "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 condition 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."
Further, the letter adds, employers shouldn't list a high-school diploma as a job requirement if the job functions could be performed by individuals without one.
The letter reflects the EEOC's focus on "what it considers systemic discrimination, as opposed to isolated civil-rights violations," says David James, shareholder and chair of the labor and employment practice group of Minneapolis-based law firm Nilan Johnson Lewis. "Consistent with this initiative, the EEOC has taken a particular interest in hiring criteria, from credit checks to arrest and criminal records to education requirements. [It] views such screening tools as having a disparate impact on minority applicants and other protected classes ... ."
While it's unlikely that including education requirements in job postings will become illegal, the letter may spur more employers and HR professionals to re-examine why they include them, he says.