Part 6: When the Pre-Employment Interview Process Enters “Forbidden Territory”

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Hi Brent,

The Importance of Focusing on Job Standards, Not Stigma

It’s always better to focus on the characteristics and behavior required, rather than clinical measures. It helps if the job requirements are clear in everyone’s mind. And it’s great to quantify spiritual resilience and even provide tools for it.

Then, if there are problems, you can take an approach of accountability to the job standards and whether the person’s performance matches what is requested. It’s helpful to discuss why someone doesn’t meet a particular spiritual standard, or why they need to behave in a particular way. Behavior can be completely irrelevant to disability. People with emotional or behavioral disabilities may be spiritually mature, do great self-care, and act in very caring ways, and others may be insensitive or selfish, or possibly just have less developed coping skills. In any case, keeping the focus on job standards helps us to avoid these awkward questions that seem to be targeting people with disabilities.

When Forbidden Territory Becomes Mandatory

As a wrap-up, maybe we should talk about when something is no longer “forbidden territory.” When someone raises a disability issue, even without a specific request, that triggers the need for an interactive discussion. Assuming that the ADA applies (and it may not, depending on jurisdiction and the person’s job role), you should be having a discussion about whether the person can meet the criteria for the job with or without a reasonable accommodation. And even if the ADA does not apply, this approach maximizes a sound use of talent and is kind and caring. Accommodations could include medical care or counseling, as well as work environment changes.

So, without getting into all the details of the interactive discussion, it’s important to note that the rules of the game change when someone raises a particular disability issue. Rather than being forbidden to discuss the disability, you are more likely required to discuss it. However, you still have the right to require that the person meet the qualifications of the job, including spiritual and behavioral. That is why it is so important to have those qualifications clear—because otherwise, how can you or they know if they meet them or miss them?

You may also need to have the discussion about whether the person is being bullied, pressured, or otherwise adequately supported by others on the team. Negative reactions from others are surprisingly common even in Christian circles.

Some of the spiritual activities you mention above may become what helps the person become resilient and able to accomplish the job. Or what helps others to be more positive and supportive in the face of a real disability. And this is a good thing!


Disclaimer: not official legal or psychological advice or opinion

Because of the generality of the information on this site, it may not apply to a given place, time, or set of facts. It is not intended to be legal advice, and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations