EEOC Says Requiring A Diploma May Be Discriminatory

Nick Fishman

Sorry, I’m a little slow on posting this, but the EEOC recently wrote an opinion letter that suggests that requiring a high school diploma as a condition of employment may be discriminatory.

Now as many of you know, I would usually take this opportunity to excoriate the EEOC.  However, I’m turning over a new leaf this year and refuse to be drawn into negativity (anyone want to place a wager on how long this will last for?).

ERE’s John Zappe wrote a great post on this topic.  See excerpt below.

An “informal discussion letter” just posted to the EEOC’s website says that under certain circumstances, requiring a diploma may run afoul of the Americans with Disabilities Act. If the requirement screens out persons unable to earn a diploma because of a bonafide disability, the employer has to justify the requirement as job-related and consistent with business necessity.

Doing that for some jobs isn’t going to be easy. Employers almost as a matter of routine include at least a high school degree requirement in every job posting, including for janitors and cleaners. The U.S. Labor Department, however, says, “Most building cleaning workers, except supervisors, do not need any formal education and mainly learn their skills on the job or in informal training sessions sponsored by their employers.”

Informal discussion letters aren’t policy. That’s up to the Commission members. However, employment lawyers see the letter as signaling the possibility that the EEOC may be looking to step up its enforcement of other provisions.

Says Proskauer Rose attorney Nigel F. Telman, “I could see them potentially … saying at some point” that a high school diploma requirement “may have a disparate impact on a particular class of people.”

For instance, 87.1 percent of the U.S. population older than 24 has a high school degree. However, only 62.9 percent of Hispanics do. So requiring a degree does have a disparate impact nationally. That alone isn’t illegal. But it does mean you’ll have to justify the requirement as both job related and consistent with business necessity.

If it’s the ADA that’s involved, you’d also have to also establish that with or without an accommodation the disabled person is unable to do the job.

Read Full Article

Discriminatory?  Really?

Doesn’t everyone in this country has access to public education?  What they chose to do with that access is up to them. I agree that every job should have requirements that correspond to the position, but discriminatory?  What on earth is the EEOC thinking?  Why not just make it illegal to actually have a degree?  I’m sure our kids would love that. I guess they aren’t happy until their relentless policies force everyone into court (or out of business).

So much for turning a new leaf.  I couldn’t hold back:)

Nick Fishman
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Nick Fishman

Nick Fishman is the co-founder of EmployeeScreenIQ, a leading, global employment background screening provider, and serves as the company’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer. He pioneered the creation of EmployeeScreen University, the #1 educational resource on employment background checks for human resources, security and risk management professionals. A recognized industry expert, Nick is a frequent author, presenter and contributor to the news media. Nick is also a licensed private investigator in the states of Ohio and Texas.
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  • Name

    Nick —

    First, I applaud you for holding off until the last paragraph to get a “little” negative ! and Secondly…well where does one even start on this topic ???? Let me reiterate your “Discriminatory ? Really ?” I’m curious would it then be incumbent upon the job applicant to confirm that they were indeed “disabled” prior to the age of (oh let’s just say) 18 when public education was readily available to them ?…and is it ANY type of disability? Let’s say a person is missing a leg. Does that mean that there was absolutely no way for them to have received a diploma ? When I was in high school…oh so long ago…one of my friend’s brothers, who was mentally handicapped and two years older than us GRADUATED with us. He was a lovely young man and has become a lovely middle-aged man. He was at school every day with a smile on his face and an even bigger smile when they handed him his DIPLOMA and the entire class was on its feet cheering. I certainly do not mean to offend anyone and am all about helping out my fellow man…but seriously ???!!!!! discriminatory ????!!!!!!

    I totally agree with the statement — “I could see them potentially … saying at some point” that a high school diploma requirement “may have a disparate impact on a particular class of people.”

    Geesh !

  • Employee Background Check

    If a high school diploma isn’t needed then what is? When an employer has one job opening and hundreds of candidates, the Employee Background Check has to commence someplace. demanding a high school diploma is a sensible start.

  • Name alice bogert

    the paragraph near the end of the above article citing the percentage of hg grads/non-grads, is not part of the EEOC opinion letter; check the EEOC website for the complete letter.

    I agree it would be foolish to do away with HS diploma as it is evidence of a person’s ability to finish what s/he started, provides valuable life lessons on getting along with others, following rules, completing assignments within deadlines, relating to authority and prepares one for the routine of getting up and going to work on an ongoing basis. It also adds to one’s fund on knowledge and life experiences; i.e., problem solving, critical thinking, and develops analytical abilities.