Florida's Unemployment Process Violates The ADA - Warning For Employers

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Florida's requirement that applicants for unemployment insurance apply over the Internet and take an online skills test discriminated against the disabled, because they could not easily access the computerized process, according to the Department of Labor's Civil Rights Center. The determination came in a case lodged by the Miami Workers' Center and the National Employment Project, which claimed that disabled Floridians were being shut out from unemployment insurance. 

In August 2011, Florida eliminated alternative options for paper and telephone filing for unemployment benefits and required all applications to be carried out online. The new rules also required that applicants complete a 45-question skills assessment and fill out other online-only forms.  But, according to the DOL, the program offered no alternatives for unemployed workers with disabilities that prevented them from using a computer. As a consequence of the adverse DOL determination, Florida has entered into voluntary compliance negotiations.

Private employers should take heed of this finding.  To the extent that on-line forms or tests are required as part of an application, employers must provide accommodations for disabled individuals to be able to complete the process.  A failure to do so may result in an ADA claim.