Let us say that you have a hearing impairment and you applied for a job in IT for a computer software developer. The recruiter asked questions about your hearing loss after noticing that you wear a hearing aid, and the interview deteriorated after that.
Is this an example of disability discrimination?
Who has a disability
You have a protected medical condition if you qualify for the job for which you applied and the law recognizes your disability in one of three ways:
- You have a mental or physical or condition that limits a major activity, such as seeing, hearing, walking, talking or learning
- You have a history of a disabling condition
- The employer or hiring manager believes that you have a mental or physical impairment that is neither minor nor transitory
About the laws
Anyone who has a disability, including hearing impairment, is protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act and other laws, such as the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Fair Employment and Housing Act. In your case, this means that a potential employer cannot treat you or any other disabled applicant unfavorably.
The job interview
During a job interview, the recruiter may not legally ask you medical questions or ask you to take a medical examination unless he or she first makes you a job offer. What a recruiter can do is ask whether you can perform the duties outlined in the job description and how you would go about executing those duties whether or not the company made reasonable accommodation for you. The recruiter must follow this procedure with all potential employees, not just those who have disabilities.
The phrase “reasonable accommodation” means that under the law, an employer must do what is necessary to accommodate your disability within reason; that is, unless doing so creates undue hardship for the company in some way. As an employee in that IT department, you would spend much of your workday on the computer, and your hearing loss would not be an issue nor require additional accommodation. However, if, as an applicant, you receive unfair treatment, you have legal options for redress.