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Employment Blog

Asking Questions of a Disabled Applicant

One of the most challenging situations faced by an employer is deciding whether or not to question an applicant about their condition when it is obvious the applicant suffers from some type of disabling condition (i.e. applicant arrives in a wheelchair or uses crutches). Employers are afraid to ask questions that could be used to support a claim that the company discriminated against the applicant because of the obvious medical condition. Sometimes, applicants self-identify they are suffering from some type of disabling condition without being asked and then the employer must decide whether or not to pursue questions to determine whether the applicant is qualified for the position.

Whether or not an employer should ask questions of an applicant that displays obvious disabling conditions is challenging but really involves applying some common sense to the situation. An employer cannot ask what type of condition or what are the limitations caused by the condition but certainly can ask the applicant how they would be able to perform the identified duties and functions of the position. In other words, the employer can look to the job description and ask the applicant whether they have the ability to perform the tasks identified in the job description and even ask the applicant to demonstrate how they would perform the function with or without an accommodation. The employer representative should not ask what type of accommodation is needed unless the applicant indicates that an accommodation would be necessary to perform functions of the job.

Applicants that suffer from an obvious disability or indicate they suffer from a disability are often looking to trap an employer into hiring the applicant either because of fear of discrimination or fear of asking questions about how the applicant would perform the job duties. Interviewers should be prepared with a list of questions in those instances where an applicant has an easily identifiable disability or is open about identifying a disability during the interview process. It is always important to have a job description that can be referred to, to get information from the applicant on how they would perform the duties of the position.