Starting 2024 on the Job Market: Know and Protect Your Rights

The beginning of the year is one of the busiest times on the job market. Companies frequently use the end of the year to review their finances and make decisions about staffing that reflect their future goals. This, of course, leaves many hard-working Tennesseans without a job, forced to pursue new opportunities.

During these critical transition periods, it’s important to be prepared and vigilant about your rights. At Hunter Law Firm, we understand the importance of knowing and protecting your rights as a job applicant. The job market is stressful for anyone, but people with disabilities and pregnant individuals face additional challenges when pursuing employment.

Our team is committed to making sure all people in Tennessee are afforded the same protections under the law, even during the application process. Some employers intentionally or unintentionally discriminate against applicants, so knowing your rights before you apply is vital in preserving those rights over time.

Protecting Your Rights During the Interview Process

Navigating the job market can be particularly challenging for individuals requiring accommodations, either during the interview process or in the workplace. A common dilemma is determining the right time to disclose information that might impact an employer’s perception of you.

For people with disabilities, this is an especially acute concern. Often, after disclosing a disability, candidates may find employers choosing less qualified individuals for the role. Legally, you are not required to disclose a disability during the interview process. It is advisable to wait until a job offer is extended before revealing any such information. If an employer retracts an offer after learning about a disability then your rights have been violated and it’s time to act to protect your right to work without discrimination.

This becomes more challenging if you require accommodations for the interview itself. In this scenario, disclosure is inevitable, but the employer is still required to provide those accommodations even during the interview process according to the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and other anti-discrimination laws enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

If a job application inquires about disabilities, it should always include an option to opt-out, as these questions are not legally allowed to be mandatory during the interview process. There are some exceptions to these protections (more on that below).

New Protections for Pregnant Workers

At long last, there are now additional protections for pregnant workers in the United States, as well. The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) lays out additional protections for individuals who are pregnant during the job application process and in their employment.

This act applies exclusively to the necessary accommodations that employers must now provide, building on earlier laws enforced by the EEOC that already protected pregnant workers from discrimination or termination. Unless the nature of the job precludes pregnant individuals or the required accommodations would cause “undue hardship,” employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations.

It’s important to note that disclosing pregnancy during the interview process is not required, and prospective employers are not permitted to inquire about your family status.

What Companies Are Exempt?

Understanding the scope of legal protections is crucial. The ADA and the PWFA apply to companies with 15 or more employees operating for over 20 weeks a year. Exceptions include religious organizations and private clubs, regardless of their size. The government rigorously scrutinizes any entity seeking an exemption. It’s vital to remember that some businesses may incorrectly assume exemption while being subject to ADA guidelines.

Additionally, an employer is not required to provide any accommodation that would cause an “undue hardship.” Undue hardship is defined under the ADA as an “action requiring significant difficulty or expense” and factors in the “nature and cost of the accommodation in relation to the size, resources, nature, and structure of the employer’s operation.” These decisions are made on a case-by-case basis.

Tell Your Story With Hunter Law Firm

If you’re facing civil rights violations during your job application and interview process in Tennessee, you deserve justice. At Hunter Law Firm, we champion those targeted by hurtful business practices that target hard-working people who deserve the right to make a living.

Our goal is to equip everyone with the necessary resources and support to effectively share their story. If you’re prepared to tell your story, contact Hunter Law Firm.

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