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Employment Blog

Deaf Candidates are Entitled to Interpreter During Interview?

The Equal Opportunity Employment Commission has filed a federal lawsuit against Toys "R"' Us alleging that the Company violated the Americans With Disabilities Act when it did not provide a sign language interpreter to a deaf applicant at a job interview. The EEOC alleges in the federal lawsuit that a Company of this size would not have an undue hardship to provide an interpreter to an applicant when asked to do so. This suit was filed in the U.S. District Court in Baltimore and will certainly go through an exhaustive litigation process.

This federal lawsuit raises an interesting question that is not easily decided. What obligations for an accommodation does an employer have for an applicant who is seeking employment with the Company?

The federal standard is that the request for an accommodation must not create an "undue hardship." The standard in Wisconsin is that the request for an accommodation must be reasonable and not pose a "hardship" on the Company. This standard has been interpreted to require employers to make most accommodations that are requested by an employee or in this case, an applicant.

Employers must be careful when interviewing candidates or reviewing candidate performance on skills tests to make sure that a reasonable accommodation has been offered to an applicant that suffers from a disability. This does not mean that you have to allow another person to come in and answer the questions for the applicant that you are interviewing, but you may be required to provide a sign language interpreter or a large-type computer screen for an applicant. A final decision on what is reasonable will depend upon the size of your business and the reasonableness of the accommodation request.