The EEOC has published a new Q&A to clarify when requiring a high school diploma violates the ADA.

Discussion Letter

In November 2011, the EEOC issued a discussion letter on this topic. The Q&A is in response to “significant commentary and conjecture about the meaning and scope of the letter.”

The letter stated that if a diploma requirement screens out a candidate who was unable to graduate because of a learning disability, the employer is required to demonstrate that the requirement is “job-related and consistent with business necessity.” The EEOC added that an employer can’t make that showing if “the functions in question can easily be performed by someone who does not have a diploma.”


The Q&A clarifies that “nothing in the letter prohibits employers from adopting a job requirement that a job applicant have a high school diploma.” The EEOC says that employers won’t have to make an exception in “the vast majority of the cases.”

However, if an applicant claims that a learning disability prevented him/her from getting a diploma, the employer may be required to “demonstrate qualification for the job in some other way.” Examples offered by the EEOC include considering experience in similar jobs or allowing the applicant to demonstrate performance of the job’s essential functions.

The Q&A also states that an employer “does not have to prefer the applicant with a disability over someone who can perform the job better.”