Leading Free-Market Group Calls on Obama Administration to Withdraw “Guidance” Warning Employers Against Asking Prospective Employees if they Have a High School Diploma

Federal Warning May Increase High School Students’ Dropout Rate, Group Warns

Washington, D.C. – The National Center For Public Policy Research is criticizing an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidance letter warning employers who require a high school diploma as a condition of employment that they may be guilty of illegal discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The informal federal guidance suggests the requirement of a high school diploma may be discrimination because it could screen out an applicant who dropped out of school due to a disability. Therefore, under this guidance, an employer needs to show that a diploma requirement meets a “business necessity.” However, even if an employer meets this business necessity threshold, the EEOC letter warns: “the employer may still have to determine whether a particular applicant whose learning disability prevents him from meeting it can perform the essential functions of the job, with or without a reasonable accommodation.”

“Rather than promoting job growth, this new EEOC guidance will put another shackle on employers in a down economy,” said Justin Danhof, general counsel of the National Center for Public Policy Research. “In the business world, the guidance will be cost-prohibitive and entirely unworkable. In addition to the harm this guidance will reap on employment, it may also increase the high school dropout rate as some employers, fearful of a federal lawsuit, may choose to drop the diploma requirement altogether.”

While the informal guidance does not carry the weight of law, it does signal how the EEOC will likely interpret the Americans with Disabilities Act in the future.

The National Center has had a watchful eye on the EEOC for years. In August 2010, the National Center was similarly critical of a wayward EEOC guidance that warned employers against conducting background checks on potential employees because a disproportionate number of blacks and Hispanics have criminal records.

For 2012, the EEOC requested a budget of $385,520,000 – an $18 million increase over its 2011 budget.

“At a time when many American families are struggling to make ends meet, the EEOC is expanding its federal footprint,” said Danhof. “To justify that mountain of taxpayer money, it seems that the EEOC is trying to create a limitless pipeline of complaints. The EEOC has fashioned a system whereby almost anyone who doesn’t get a job that they applied for can claim discrimination and run to the EEOC for help – including felons and dropouts. The EEOC should revoke this misguided guidance so that employers are free to hire the most qualified candidates, and students are encouraged to complete their high school education.”

The National Center For Public Policy Research is a conservative, free-market, non-profit think-tank established in 1982. It is supported by the voluntary gifts of over 100,000 individual recent supporters, receiving less than one percent of its revenue from corporate sources. Contributions to it are tax-deductible.


The National Center for Public Policy Research is a communications and research foundation supportive of a strong national defense and dedicated to providing free market solutions to today’s public policy problems. We believe that the principles of a free market, individual liberty and personal responsibility provide the greatest hope for meeting the challenges facing America in the 21st century.