The EEOC Issues New Guidance Reminding Employers of Protections for Applicant and Employees with Hearing Disabilities

On January 24, 2023, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released an updated resource document titled “Hearing Disabilities in the Workplace and the Americans with Disabilities Act,” explaining how the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to job applicants and employees who are deaf or hard of hearing or have other hearing conditions.

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, roughly 15% of Americans have of some sort of trouble hearing, which could qualify as a disability under the ADA. Through a series of questions and answers, as well as situational hypotheticals, the EEOC’s updated guidance explains employer obligations pre-offer, post-offer, and during employment and explores such issues as:

  • when an employer may ask an applicant or employee questions about a hearing condition and how it should treat voluntary disclosures;
  • what types of reasonable accommodations applicants or employees with hearing disabilities may need;
  • how an employer should handle safety concerns about applicants and employees with hearing disabilities; and
  • how an employer can ensure that no employee is harassed because of a hearing disability or any other disability.

The newly updated guidance comes on the heels of the EEOC’s recent announcements of settlements reached between the EEOC and two private employers accused of engaging in disability discrimination and/or failure to accommodate hearing-impaired individuals. It comes as a reminder to all employers that many hearing-impaired applicants and employees are protected under the ADA. Employers should review the updated guidance as a reminder as to what their obligations are under the ADA and, as always, contact your Weintraub Tobin Labor and Employment attorney with any questions.