What to Do When a Job Candidate Discloses a Disability

It’s estimated that one in four American adults has a disability. If a hiring manager does not know how to work with candidates from the disability community and follow the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), then they’re inadvertently closing off their home to plenty of talented and dedicated employees – and potentially opening themselves up to an expensive and difficult lawsuit. The process for hiring employees with disabilities should be no different than hiring employees without. An astute employer will undergo the “interactive process” and find potential accommodations for all employees who need them, regardless of whether their disabilities are visible or invisible, permanent or temporary. If a job candidate discloses a disability to you during the interview process, and you’re wondering what to do when a job candidate discloses a disability, follow these three steps to ensure you follow the safe and fair hiring practices required by law and the ADA.

3 tips to help you follow fair hiring practices for candidates with disabilities

1. Ask whether they can perform the tasks at hand

A hiring manager should always present a candidate with a written job description and ask them if, after reviewing the materials provided, there are any factors that might prevent the candidate from performing the job functions as written. This is a step of the process that should be done regardless of any candidate’s disability status, and is a good practice to help assess fit for any position.

What is important to remember is that you’re not asking if they have a disability and if it will be a problem, but whether or not they can do the job. Keeping the focus of the conversation to the successful fulfillment of potential job duties will ensure that the position is a great match for both the candidate and the manager. This sets clear expectations and opens up a conversation that can help inform both parties on next steps in the hiring process: exploring potential accommodations.

2. Engage in the “interactive process”

If someone brings up that they have a disability that might prohibit them from doing the job as written, you should engage in what the ADA calls the “interactive process” before proceeding with any hiring decisions. This essentially means that you and the candidate should work together to find workarounds and “reasonable accommodations” for duties they can’t reliably perform. 

For example: If a potential housekeeper can’t lift 50 lbs alone due to a disability, but there will always be another employee in your home who can assist with lifting, then you’ll still be getting a great candidate who can perform all of their job duties with a little assistance and without imposing a significant burden on you. However, if you’re trying to hire a personal assistant to handle your errands and they would need to do so by driving – and you find a great candidate, but they disclose that they are legally blind and cannot drive – then you might be free to say that driving is a key requirement of the position and no accommodations can be made in this case. Before you meet with a candidate, know the duties of the position you’re hiring for inside and out, and know which ones are critical to the successful completion of the job while maintaining flexibility with other responsibilities.

3. Get hiring assistance from an employment expert if you’re still uncertain

If you’re still unsure about how to handle a situation in which a job candidate discloses a disability, it’s well worth reaching out to a professional that can help you. Not only is this a fair and equitable approach to hiring, it can save you from potential liability and lawsuits down the road. Most employment lawyers can advise you on this issue, but the Job Accommodation Network can be a wealth of information as well.

Don’t overlook qualified candidates who have a disability

Regardless of industry, location, or ability, the hiring process can be complex and challenging. In any hiring situation, it’s critical to follow equitable hiring practices required by law. If you’re looking to hire a household employee – such as a caregiver, nanny, or personal assistant – and pay them from a trust, the safest solution is to utilize outside experts that can help you strategize on how to set up an employee with a disability for success in their job. If you’d like to learn more about TEAM’s solution for household employees, contact us to learn more.