The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) expanded in 2008 to include persons with hearing disabilities. This federal law protects workers with significant hearing loss from discrimination in the workplace. Studies indicate that between 16 and 20% of the working population are affected by significant hearing loss. This federal prohibition therefore impacts upwards of 48 million employees in the United States.
Pre-employment Protections Against Hearing Discrimination
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the agency tasked with enforcing the ADA, and have adopted rules that prohibit discriminatory hiring practices. A prospective employer may not ask if an applicant has hearing loss, uses a hearing aid, or has ever had medical procedures related to hearing. However, the employer may ask questions that relate specifically to job function, such as can the applicant function in a noisy environment, meet safety standards, and whether the applicant possesses good communication skills.
A prospective employee is not obligated to volunteer information related to their hearing loss on an application or during an interview. Even if an interviewer perceives a hearing loss disability because he or she noticed a hearing aid or because the candidate mentioned something that indicated a possible hearing disability, the employer may not ask for specific information about the hearing loss. The employer may ask if the candidate needs an accommodation to perform the job. Once revealed, information related to hearing loss or any other disability must be kept confidential.
After a conditional offer of employment has been made, the employer may ask specific questions such as how long the hearing loss has existed, what are the hearing limitations, and what kind of accommodations are needed to perform the job. The employer may also request that a medical examination be conducted if: a) that is a condition of employment for all applicants; or b) there is a concern related to the safety of the employees because of the hearing impairment. To justify a special request for medical examination, there must be a clearly identified safety concern.
Post-employment Protections Against Hearing Discrimination
After an employee starts work, the employer is strictly limited to questioning an employee about hearing loss if the employer has noticed job performance issues or safety concerns are clearly present. Should an employee notice special needs upon entry into the workplace, he or she may request special accommodations to perform the job. For instance, if the employer has located the employee in a very noisy area of an office causing interference with a hearing aid, a request for a different location is reasonable.
Some other common accommodations for those with a hearing disability include providing written memos of verbal memos issued, providing assistive listening devices or specialized computer software, and locating employees with hearing loss close to emergency notification systems equipped with strobe lights.
Delaware County Employment Lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. Help Victims of Hearing Discrimination
For more than 30 years, the Delaware County employment lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. have been fighting employment discrimination. To schedule a confidential consultation with an experienced employment lawyer, contact us online or call 215-569-1999 today.
From our offices in Philadelphia, we represent clients throughout Delaware County, including those in Ardmore, Boothwyn, Bortondale, Broomall, Cheyney, Concord, Crum Lynne, Drexel Hill, Elwyn, Folsom, Garden City, Garnet Valley, Garrett Hill, Glen Mills, Gradyville, Haverford, Havertown, Holmes, Lenni, Lima, Linwood, Moylan, Radnor, Riddlewood, Rosemont, Rose Tree, Secane, St. Davids, Strafford, Villanova, Wallingford, Wawa, Wayne, and Woodlyn.