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Accused of discriminatory hiring practices?

The hiring process can be intimidating for many employers, especially since you are dealing with many regulations related to fairness and discrimination. While it is important to screen applicants and learn as much as you can about them to find the one who is best for the job, it is also critical that you not violate the applicants' rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act. In some cases, the wording of a single question can make all the difference.

If you have recently interviewed candidates for open positions in your company, you may agree that the process was stressful, especially if any of your candidates had visible disabilities. Understanding the limitations the ADA places on you can help you avoid discriminatory practices during the hiring process.

Watch what you say

The ADA covers every aspect of employment, from recruiting and advertising open positions, through the selection and interview process, and including hiring and training. Because of ADA, those with disabilities should feel confident that their impairments will not affect an employer's decision to hire, train, promote, provide benefits for or terminate them. The underlying foundation of the law is to provide those with disabilities a fair opportunity to compete for jobs for which they are qualified. Therefore, the following are key during the interview process:

  • You may not ask questions about an applicant's disability.
  • You may not inquire whether someone's physical condition will prevent him or her from accomplishing the essential tasks of the job.
  • Your interview questions should focus more on the applicant's strengths and abilities than on his or her weaknesses.
  • Any interview questions you ask of a candidate with a disability you must consistently ask of every candidate you interview.
  • Questions about an applicant's mental health, treatment for addiction, physical conditions or time lost at previous jobs because of illness are off limits.
  • You do not need to discuss accommodations with an applicant unless you observe a disabling condition or the candidate tells you about a disability.
  • You do not have to hire someone just because he or she has a disability if another candidate is more qualified.

The purpose of the hiring process is to find an employee who will be a benefit to your company whether the person has a disability or not. However, if you are now facing accusations of discrimination because you did not hire someone with a disability, you probably already know you are in a delicate situation. You would be wise to seek legal advice from a Florida attorney who has experience defending employers against accusations of discriminatory hiring practices.

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