Imaginary situation: a candidate arrives to a job interview for a position of software engineer. She had notified the HR manager that she has severe mobility problems and thus can't move around unless absolutely necessary. However, the interviewer demanded her to stand up and draw on the whiteboard during the interview, and insisted that she has to do that.
Should this be considered as an act of discrimination?

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    The situation is imaginary, so no. Imaginary situations cannot win law suits. – Strawberry Sep 24 '20 at 15:59
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    @Strawberry, Law.SE permits hypothetical questions. When a user posits an "imaginary" situation, we construe it as a hypothetical. If you feel that the question crosses the line and requests specific legal advice, then please edit or vote accordingly. – Pat W. Sep 24 '20 at 18:54
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    Did she inform the interviewer of her disability? It's pretty easy for some piece of information to get lost somewhere between HR and the interviewer. It may or may not matter, but it could be something for the answers to address nonetheless. – NotThatGuy Sep 24 '20 at 20:02
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    @Strawberry Imaginary situations can involve imaginary lawsuits though. – NotThatGuy Sep 24 '20 at 20:05
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    @NotThatGuy since the interviewer is an agent of the company, I doubt they could make much headway presenting an argument that ignorance on the part of the interviewer shielded them from their obligations under the ADA. Communication failures within a company are not a shield against litigation. – Dancrumb Sep 25 '20 at 2:29

Yes, this would be an ADA violation

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that "reasonable accommodations" be provided to people with disabilities in both the job application process and in the workplace. Specifically, this would be a failure to provide "modifications or adjustments to a job application process that enable a qualified applicant with a disability to be considered for the position such qualified applicant desires" as described in the EEOC enforcement guidelines.

Software engineers generally are not required to stand up and move around much to do their jobs, so the employer wouldn't have an argument that requiring an applicant to do so in the interview process is somehow related to job requirements. I'm a software engineer myself, and I spend almost my entire day sitting down (and very little time drawing on whiteboards, especially now that I'm not allowed to be in the building where the whiteboards are). Possible reasonable accommodations would include getting a portable whiteboard that's lower to the ground or allowing the candidate to draw on paper instead.

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    The office I'm not supposed to go into has tables with whiteboard tops in the conference rooms. I'm not normally a whiteboard fan, but they've been useful on occasions where I need to take a quick note while sharing my screen. – Dan Is Fiddling By Firelight Sep 24 '20 at 16:46
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    Yeah, we've got whiteboards too. Ours are the portable ones that can be wheeled around. We actually used them decently frequently, but if a coworker with mobility issues wanted us to gather around their desk while they drew on paper or to go wheel a whiteboard over from the corner so that they could draw on it for a discussion rather than all walking over to the corner together, that wouldn't be a problem. – Ryan M Sep 24 '20 at 16:50
  • Zoom has a whiteboard feature, so yeah, it would be fairly easy for the interviewing company to accommodate reasonably. – shoover Sep 25 '20 at 0:40
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    @Trish I don't think so. There are lots of reasonable substitutes, like using a drawing tablet that's mirrored to a television or projector if you actually need to draw something. Even in non-pandemic times, a lot of presentations are conducted by someone sitting at a laptop sharing their screen with the presentation on it (almost all the presentations in my more formal meetings were done this way, especially since our team is split across countries). It's usually easier, because when someone inevitably needs to type something as a demonstration, they're already set up to show it to everyone. – Ryan M Sep 25 '20 at 8:13
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    @Trish the key part there is that while whiteboards are a common means to present such, they are not the only way to present; choosing an alternative means to present is plausible and a reasonable accomodation, and in such cases the company is required to make that reasonable accomodation and is not allowed to insist that the presentation must be on a whiteboard. – Peteris Sep 25 '20 at 13:33

Depends what the job was.

If you had to lecture in front of a class and walk around to help students with their work then maybe it was not.

If you just sat and coded all day then definitely yes.

  • I voted +1 up because this aspect was not discussed in the other answer: In many companies the workers also must hold training courses for other employees where the trainers must walk from one trainee to the other in the course room. If the new employee is explicitly told that holding such trainings is part of the job, the new employee must be able to walk around a course room to perform the job. – Martin Rosenau Sep 27 '20 at 7:27
  • @MartinRosenau While that's an interesting point, I disagree that a company could not provide reasonable accommodations allowing a movement-impaired person to do that. You could easily work around this in any number of ways: screen sharing, spacing desks widely enough to allow a wheelchair to pass between them, etc. There's unlikely to be a requirement that they specifically walk between the trainees (or be able to stand up), simply that they be able to move between them. – Ryan M Oct 3 '20 at 0:06

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