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Government Local

DeKalb settles discrimination complaint

Justice Department found improper questions on job applications

DeKALB – The city of DeKalb has entered a settlement agreement with the Justice Department over online job applications that allegedly discriminated against applicants with disabilities.

Under the agreement, city officials agreed to ensure the city’s hiring policies and procedures don’t discriminate against applicants on the basis of disability.

The city agreed not to conduct any medical examinations or ask disability-related questions of applicants before making a conditional job offer.

The city also must update its website to comply with federal guidelines.

City Attorney Dean Frieders said the settlement came after an exhaustive review of the city’s hiring practices dating back 10 years.

He added the city was pleased to enter into the settlement.

“Everything they’re trying to enforce is something the city was already planning on doing and stands behind,” Frieders said.

The Justice Department said it contacted the city in July 2013 after an investigation found DeKalb’s online employment application asked questions about disabilities, a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The investigation also revealed the city’s employment opportunity website wasn’t fully accessible to people with disabilities.

Mayor John Rey declined to comment, deferring to Frieders and City Manager Anne Marie Gaura.

Frieders said the questions the department cited had not been used in several years and had been prepared and reviewed by people who are no longer employees.

He also said the city had planned to redesign its website to make it more accessible.

“It does not meet ordinary expectations of what a modern website would look like,” Frieders said.

Another condition of the settlement agreement is that within 90 days the city has to provide ADA training to all supervisors and those who participate in hiring.

Frieders said Assistant City Manager Patty Hoppenstedt and Human Resource Director Michelle Anderson have been drafting a training program, but the city has not designated someone to carry out the training.

The city will need to designate someone within 60 days who will address ADA compliance matters.

City officials also agreed to send the Justice Department a written report every six months for the next three years showing any lawsuits or complaints in which that the city asked whether an applicant had a disability; a list of withdrawn job offers based on medical or disability-related information; and logs showing attendance at ADA training.

The settlement with DeKalb was one of four across the country the Justice Department announced.

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