Company Quickly Takes Back Job Offer and Pays the Price
By Darlene Clabault
A Utah staffing company learned a costly lesson after taking back a job offer because an applicant was missing a left hand.
The company acted before taking some critical steps, and the price tag for this was $77,500 when it lost a discrimination lawsuit brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
Where the company went wrong
The company rescinded the job offer before engaging in what the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) calls the “interactive process.”
This involves discussing potential accommodations that would allow an individual to do the job. Rather than talking to the applicant about options, however, the company made assumptions about the individual’s abilities, resulting in illegal discrimination.
This mistake highlights the need to look into possible solutions before making a decision about whether an employee or applicant with a disability can do a job. During the interactive process, employers and employees who request accommodations work together to find a solution.
6 key steps in the interactive process
Because the ADA does not mandate a particular format for the interactive process, employers are free to develop their own process.
It often looks like this:
No accommodation provided
- Recognize an accommodation request.
- Gather information.
- Explore accommodation options.
- Choose an accommodation.
- Implement the chosen accommodation.
- Monitor the accommodation.
In this court case, the company also failed to provide a reasonable accommodation.
In addition to paying $77,500, the company also needs to make policy and procedural changes to help ensure that this does not happen again. It must:
What employers should do when an accommodation is requested
- Revise anti-discrimination policies,
- Investigate promptly and thoroughly complaints of disability discrimination,
- Train all employees (including temporary associates) on antidiscrimination, and
- Provide reports on training, complaints of discrimination, and any revisions to policies and procedures to the EEOC.
The company could have avoided this situation by engaging in the interactive process, which helps employers discover and provide reasonable accommodations.
Engaging in the interactive process shows a good-faith effort was made, which can protect against punitive fines and compensatory damages should discrimination claims arise.
A thorough, documented conversation also helps when there might be a question regarding whether an applicant’s or employee’s disability can be reasonably accommodated and what type of accommodation might best help the individual apply for a job or perform the essential functions of a job.
Employers should not make assumptions about an individual’s abilities during the hiring process or thereafter. Instead, engage in the interactive process to help avoid claims of discrimination.