December 14, 2011

Diploma requirement may violate the ADA

Posted in Application Process, Diploma requirements, Disability, Discrimination, Interviewing, Job Descriptions tagged , , , , , at 9:47 am by Tom Jacobson

If you search or  even the “help wanted” section of any newspaper, the odds are pretty good you’ll stumble upon countless ads where “high school diploma or its equivalent” is listed a job requirement.  That may seem like a pretty innocuous requirement; after all, a diploma certainly indicates the applicant has met someone’s established standards of intelligence and ambition.  However, as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has recently stressed, a diploma requirement may violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The EEOC’s comments came in the form of an “informal discussion letter,” which responded to a request for public  comment on the issue.  In that letter, the EEOC noted that there are many individuals who, due to various learning disabilities, may be unable to obtain a high school diploma or its equivalent.  Yet, they may have the skills to perform the essential functions of the job to be filled. “Thus,” the EEOC noted, “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.”

Although the EEOC’s  informal letter does not constitute the official opinion of the Commission and does not carry the force or effect of a law or regulation, it serves as a reminder to employers that job requirements must be truly job-related and consistent with business necessity.  Artificial requirements which act as barriers that keep otherwise qualified individuals with disabilities out of the workplace will be subject to challenge.

For more information about this article, please contact me at

The comments posted in this blog are for general informational purposes only. They are not to be considered as legal advice, and they do not establish an attorney-client relationship. For legal advice regarding your specific situation, please consult your attorney.

Copyright 2011 Swenson Lervick Syverson Trosvig Jacobson Schultz, PA



  1. Thank you for any other wonderful post. The place else may just anyone get that type of info in such a perfect approach of writing? I have a presentation next week, and I’m at the search for such info.

  2. I wan’t going to comment as this posts a bit old now, but just wanted to say thanks.

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