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Understanding Hearing Disabilities In The Workplace And The Americans With Disabilities Act – Employee Rights/ Labour Relations


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The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has recently
released a new resource document for employers, providing valuable
guidance on how to navigate the Americans with Disabilities Act
(ADA) in relation to job applicants and employees with hearing
disabilities. The document explains the legal responsibilities of
employers to provide fair workplaces for all employees and job
applicants who need reasonable accommodations.

When it comes to asking applicants or employees
disability-related questions, the guidance from the EEOC is clear.
Before an offer is made, employers cannot ask questions about an
applicant’s hearing disability. If an applicant has an obvious
hearing impairment or has voluntarily disclosed the existence of
one, employers can ask if an accommodation will be needed – but
only if they reasonably believe an accommodation will be needed to
complete the application process or do the job. After a job offer
is made, employers can ask disability-related questions, but only
if they do so for all applicants for the same type of job.

Current employees can be subjected to medical inquiries when the
employer reasonably believes that performance issues are
disability-related. Employers can also ask employees about their
hearing if they reasonably believe they will be unable to perform
the job’s essential functions safely.

The EEOC resource document provides a non-exhaustive list of
potential accommodations that vary widely, from sign-language
interpreters to assistive technology, note-taking assistance and
work-area adjustments.

It’s important for employers to understand their obligations
under the ADA and to take steps to ensure that their workplace is
inclusive and accommodating for individuals with hearing

To read the full text of the EEOC’s resource document on
hearing disabilities, click here.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.

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