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Disability discrimination laws protect job applicants, too

The United States’ employment discrimination laws do not just apply to hired workers. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) clearly states it is illegal to discriminate against not just an employee, but also a job applicant, on the basis of a protected class.

A recent case involving a fast food franchise located here in Oklahoma offers an example of what discrimination against an applicant can look like.

Job offer rescinded after request for on-site coaching

This case stems from an incident with the operators of a Burger King franchise in Lawton, Oklahoma. According to an announcement from the EEOC, a man with an intellectual disability applied for a position as a dining room and bathroom attendant.

He went to the job interview, with a representative from a local job coaching organization accompanying him. During the interview, the man asked for a job coach to provide on-site support – at no cost to the franchise owner.

After that request, the company withdrew its job offer to the man, the EEOC said.

The EEOC filed a disability discrimination lawsuit, arguing the franchise owner’s withdrawal of the job offer violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). More specifically, it violated the requirement that businesses provide reasonable accommodations to qualified applicants and workers with a disability.

In August 2019, the EEOC announced a settlement in the case. As part of a three-year consent decree, the franchise owners agreed to:

  • Pay the job applicant $30,000
  • Provide more training to its employees on the ADA and reasonable accommodations
  • Report new accommodation requests to the EEOC.

Examples of reasonable accommodations

The law makes it clear. A business can not discriminate against a qualified applicant or worker, and must provide reasonable accommodations. That could include:

  • Offering reading help or an interpreter
  • Altering a work schedule
  • Ensuring the work space and bathrooms are accessible
  • Providing specialized equipment that allows a worker to do the job
  • Offering voice recognition or dictation software

It is an unfortunate reality that many capable Oklahomans face unnecessary adversity when trying to get a job because of a disability. While it may seem daunting, it is possible for people who have been discriminated against by a potential employer to pursue justice.