[Jobs] Driver's license.doc

Dick Davis ddavis at blindinc.org
Wed Apr 27 15:33:17 CDT 2011

Hi, this is Dick again. I found an error in the last sentence, so I am
sending this out again. Please delete the one I sent earlier.


National Federation of the Blind 

Employment Committee

100 E. 22nd St.

Minneapolis, MN 55404-2514


April 15, 2011


Dear Employer:


Over the past couple of years, I've seen a large number of job postings that
require a valid state driver's license. These job postings don't require the
kind of commercial driver's license needed by people who drive
professionally.  They require the kind of garden variety driver's license
that mom, dad, and the kids need to drive their car, minivan, or SUV.  


The odd thing about the job postings I've seen that contain this requirement
is that most of them don't even list driving as an essential job function. I
know lots of blind jobseekers who were able to perform all the essential
functions of a job, but decided not to apply when they saw the valid
driver's license requirement.  


I'm sure there are good reasons why the valid driver's license requirement
finds its way into job descriptions (and it does into lots of them). A valid
driver's license permits employees to drive company vehicles or use their
own for work functions. It also serves as a handy means of identification.  


But in my opinion, the requirement is discriminatory, because it excludes
blind people as a class.  That's because no blind person can qualify for a
state driver's license. If you know anything about civil rights law, a
requirement that excludes an entire class of people from applying is a
definite no-no.  That's especially the case when driving isn't listed as an
essential function of the job.   


The only time when such a requirement isn't discriminatory is when operating
a motor vehicle is an essential function of the job, and no reasonable
accommodation is available.  An example of this would be a job where a
significant portion of the employee's workday is spent picking up people in
the morning, driving them to a social service program, and taking them back
home in the afternoon.  


It would be unreasonable for a blind person to apply for that kind of job.
But if, on the other hand, the job just required some travel, it would be
reasonable for the individual to apply.  Blind people use mass transit,
taxis, shuttle vans, intercity buses, trains, planes, and paid drivers to
get from place to place.  They do so efficiently, and they've been doing it
for decades.  


In that case, requiring that the blind person have a valid driver's license
and drive a company car would be discriminatory, since reasonable
accommodations like the ones listed above are in fact available.  The
argument "because we've always done it that way" isn't going to hold up in
court if the blind person files a civil rights complaint.  I know, because
I've served as an expert witness in a number of discrimination cases.  


So, what is an employer to do?  I think the best approach is to leave the
valid driver's license requirement out of the job description entirely
unless driving (not just getting from place to place, but actually operating
a motor vehicle) is an essential function of the job, and no reasonable
accommodation is available.  


If the job requires travel, say so, and say how much travel is required, but
don't specify the method that must be used. Let the blind job applicant
figure that out, and if the explanation seems reasonable to you, hire them.
If you want an employee to have identification, say that you want a "valid
state driver's license or state ID".  Blind people can get state ID's, the
same amount of proof is required, and they look virtually the same.  


In a broader sense, make sure all your job descriptions state the essential
functions in detail, but avoid specifying the exact methods to be used. And
especially avoid physical requirements like "good vision" unless you are
absolutely certain that there is no way a person can perform the tasks using
nonvisual methods.  (The only way you can be absolutely certain is if you
know a lot about blindness and blind people, which isn't usually the case.)


A couple of final points - blind people are not stupid; they have no
interest in taking unreasonable risks, or failing and getting fired.  If an
individual doesn't think they can perform the required functions, they won't
apply, and if they do, they'll be prepared to describe the methods they'll
use to do them. 


It's simple, it's fair, and it beats heck out of having to respond to a
civil rights complaint.  


Best wishes,

Richard "Dick" Davis

Committee Chair


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