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Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Justice Department Reaches Settlements with Four Cities Across the Country to Remove Disability-Related Questions from Job Applications and Ensure Web Accessibility

The Justice Department announced today that it has reached settlement agreements with the cities of DeKalb, Illinois; Vero Beach, Florida; Fallon, Nevada; and Isle of Palms, South Carolina.  The agreements resolve investigations of each city under Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  The investigations found that each city’s online employment application asked questions about disabilities in violation of the ADA.  The ADA does not permit employers to inquire as to whether an applicant is an individual with a disability or as to the nature of such disability before making a conditional offer of employment.  Under Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, however, federal contractors subject to affirmative action requirements may invite an applicant voluntarily to self-identify as an individual with a disability, consistent with certain requirements. 

The investigations also found that each city’s online employment opportunities website or job applications were not fully accessible to people with disabilities, such as those who are blind or have low vision, are deaf or hard of hearing, or have physical disabilities affecting manual dexterity (such as limited ability to use a mouse).  In recent months, the department reached similar settlement agreements with the city of Hubbard, Oregon, and Florida State University. 

“Congress intended for people with disabilities to be able to compete for jobs on a level playing field,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta of the Civil Rights Division.  “Including disability-based questions on a job application is illegal and creates barriers for people with disabilities.  These agreements ensure that people with disabilities will have an equal chance to compete for public sector jobs.  We commend each city for its cooperation and efforts to ensure accessibility and fairness in the job application process.”   

Under the settlement agreements, each city agrees to ensure that its hiring policies and procedures do not discriminate against any applicant on the basis of disability, including by:

  • not conducting a medical examination or making a disability-related inquiry of a job applicant before a conditional offer of employment is made;

  • not requiring a medical examination or making inquiries of an employee as to whether such employee is an individual with a disability or as to the nature or severity of the disability, unless such examination or inquiry is shown to be job-related and consistent with business necessity;

  • maintaining the medical or disability-related information of applicants and employees in separate, confidential medical files;

  • training employees who make hiring or personnel decisions on the requirements of the ADA, designating an individual to address ADA compliance matters, and reporting on compliance; and

  • ensuring that its online employment opportunities website and job applications conform with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0, which are industry guidelines for making web content accessible.

Those interested in finding out more about the ADA may call the Justice Department’s toll-free ADA information line at 800-514-0301 (TDD 800-514-0383) or visit www.ada.gov.

Updated August 27, 2015