1. Health
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Employment Discrimination Against Deaf Job Applicants

By

Updated February 24, 2011

Unfortunately, when deaf and hard of hearing people look for work, they may encounter employment discrimination. Prospective employers can discriminate, either openly or subtly. This discrimination happens because of either overt prejudice, or because of ignorance about deafness and hearing loss. For example, an employer may errenously think that a deaf employee will need an interpreter all of the time.

What Can Deaf Job Applicants Do?

Some deaf job searchers may try to tailor their resumes to hide the fact they have a hearing loss. Deaf people can use personal relay service phone numbers on their resumes. This number is a real voice number and employers who see it on a resume do not know that the applicant is deaf/hoh until they call. This avoids "giving away" the fact the applicant is deaf on the resume because the deaf applicant can list the personal relay phone number instead. More importantly, deaf applicants can have immediate communication with the employer calling.

If you do suspect you are being discriminated against, document everything. Good documentation is often the key to winning the battle. For example, if you make a relay call to the company you want to work for, and the person on the phone says something like "we don't hire deaf people," make sure you document it.

What Can You Do About Discrimination?

First, be aware that if you experience discrimination when you apply for a job, it could be a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Under the ADA, a job applicant is considered qualified as long as he can do the essential functions of the job - with or without reasonable accomodations. An example of a reasonable accomodation might be an interpreter for important staff meetings.

Then, be aware that there is a U.S. government agency, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) that is responsible for protecting your rights in the job search, and also on the job. Although you may be tempted to file a lawsuit right away, under the EEOC rules you have to file a charge of discrimination before you can file a lawsuit. You don't have to file the charge yourself - someone else can do it for you to hide your identity. Don't wait too long to file the charge because you have 180 days to file from the day the discrimination happened, including holidays and weekends.

How Can You File with the EEOC?

It is not hard to file an employment discrimination complaint with the EEOC. You can file or initiate filing in three different ways - in person, by phone, or by mail. To file in person, go to an EEOC field office. EEOC recommends contacting the field office in advance of filing because each office has its own procedures. To initiate the filing by phone, you can call the EEOC at 1-800-669-4000 with the basic information and they will contact a field office on your behalf, but you still have to work with the field office to actually file the charge. To file by mail, you can mail the EEOC a signed letter that has all the details. EEOC may contact you for more information, or the EEOC may put all the information you sent on an official charge form that you will be asked to sign.

What Can the EEOC Do?

After they receive your charge of discrimination, the EEOC may ask you to go through mediation, whereas a neutral mediator may try to resolve the situation. If the attempt at mediation fails, or if the EEOC does not ask you to try mediation first, your charge of discrimination will go to an investigator who will investigate to see if there was in fact, discrimination.

Results of Complaint Investigation

If the EEOC investigator decides that there was discrimination, EEOC will try to settle with the employer. If a settlement is not achieved, EEOC then decides whether or not to file a lawsuit against the employer. Conversely, if the EEOC investigator decides that there was no discrimination, you still have the right to sue the employer. You will be given a Notice of Right to Sue.

Remedies for Employment Discrimination

In trying to reach a settlement or when filing a lawsuit, the EEOC may ask that you be placed in the job, or given the pay you would have gotten if the company had hired you in the first place. There may also be compensatory (to reimburse your costs) or punitive damages (for an employer that has openly discriminated, for example).

EEOC Cases Involving Deaf Job Applicants

Have there been any past EEOC cases involving deaf job applicants? Yes. A search of the EEOC newsroom (http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/index.cfm) on deaf turns up the following examples:
  • EEOC settled a case with a hotel chain over a deaf teenager who was told at a job interview that she was not qualified for the position she applied for, because of her hearing loss.
  • EEOC won a lawsuit against a staffing company that would not consider a deaf job applicant for a position as a stock clerk. The staffing company would not accept the job application or interview the deaf applicant.

Sources:

Facts About the Americans with Disabilities Act. U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/publications/fs-ada.cfm. Accessed February 2011.

Filing a Charge. U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. http://www.eeoc.gov/employees/charge.cfm. Accessed February 2011.

How to File a Charge. U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. http://www.eeoc.gov/employees/howtofile.cfm. Accessed February 2011.

Remedies. U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. http://www.eeoc.gov/employees/remedies.cfm. Accessed February 2011.

Timeliness. U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. http://www.eeoc.gov/employees/timeliness.cfm. Accessed February 2011.

Reader Stories: Job Search Discrimination Examples

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.

We comply with the HONcode standard
for trustworthy health
information: verify here.