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Can a business refuse to hire me because I am deaf?

In some ways, having a disability is the new normal. For example, statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that 16.3 percent of American adults have at least some physical difficulty functioning. The percentage of all noninstitutionalized adults with sight issues is 9.4, and the percentage of those with hearing issues is 15.3.

That said, not all employers are as enlightened as they should be. The Americans with Disabilities Act lays out regulations about hiring people with disabilities, but it is possible in some cases for you to be legally turned down for a job because you are deaf.

Employer size matters

If a business has fewer than 15 employees, it does not have to follow the ADA. In California, the minimum number of employees required to trigger the Fair Employment and Housing Act is 5 employees. Thus, if you are applying for a job at a really small business, yes, it could be possible to be outright denied a job because you are deaf.

Even businesses with more than 15 employees (5 Employees in California) might may not be requirement to hire you due to your deafness as long as hiring you would constitute an undue hardship for them. For example, if the business does not make much money and if you would need a highly paid interpreter for all of your working hours, that could be an undue hardship.

But for the good news...

There is a lot of good news, however. Namely, there is the fact that accommodations generally do not cost much. Technology helps a lot in this regard. For instance, emails or transcription services can help a deaf employee who would otherwise need to rely on an interpreter. There are also tax incentives to help employers accommodate workers with disabilities.

That said, that does not mean once a deaf employee is hired, the sailing will be smooth. It is entirely possible this person would get looked over for promotions or get paid less than hearing employees.

An attorney should be able to help explore your options both during the hiring process and during employment.

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