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EEOC job-related point: base hiring decisions on ability

Sometimes employment discrimination matters are very individual-specific and not universally applicable. That is, the facts most central to an allegation or case are narrowly tailored to only one person and not overly instructive in any generic or broad-based sense.

The following tale is not representative of that genre.

In fact, the U.S. Employment Opportunity Commission recently entered a litigation fray seemingly marked by a very constrained set of facts dealing with only one individual to make a point regarding all Americans with disabilities.

That point, made for the edification of employers across the country: Do not make determinations regarding prospective hires that are based on speculation and stereotypes. If you do so, instead of being guided by a person's abilities, it will be at your peril.

Sometimes employment discrimination matters are very individual-specific and not universally applicable. That is, the facts most central to an allegation or case are narrowly tailored to only one person and not overly instructive in any generic or broad-based sense.

The following tale is not representative of that genre.

In fact, the U.S. Employment Opportunity Commission recently entered a litigation fray seemingly marked by a very constrained set of facts dealing with only one individual to make a point regarding all Americans with disabilities.

That point, made for the edification of employers across the country: Do not make determinations regarding prospective hires that are based on speculation and stereotypes. If you do so, instead of being guided by a person's abilities, it will be at your peril.

In the matter that is being discussed in today's post, that meant this: An employer who was about to hire a person and then backed off after finding out he had epilepsy was sued by the EEOC for violating the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. Central to the commission's reasoning in the case was that the man's condition was well under control and that he was unquestionably well qualified for the position.

Although the employer, Amtrak, stated that it "does not discriminate against employees or applicants based on disability," it appeared to do precisely that when it drew back from hiring the would-be machinist, who hadn't had a seizure in years and was medically cleared for work. In fact, the applicant was already working in a similar position for another employer.

"It is critical that employers do not base job decisions on stereotypes," stated an EEOC director in California commenting on the case.