Can requiring applicants to have access to a computer and high speed internet be considered discrimination?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Can requiring applicants to have access to a computer and high speed internet be considered discrimination?

As part of the pre-hiring process, we have developed a paid training program meant to be taken from home that last from 2-4 weeks depending on existing skills. The training requires that the applicant have access to a computer that can run software with fairly high hardware requirements, as well as an internet connection capable of downloading it. Can these requirements be considered discriminatory?

Asked on November 22, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

No, they are NOT discriminatory. Employers are allowed to "discriminate" against employees on any basis not specifically prohibited by law: for example, private employers can refuse to hire employees for voted for a certain presidential candidate, who have tatoos, who cannot drive, employees who lack a smart phone, etc. There is no law making it illegal to discriminate on the basis of computer and internet access, and no protection for those who lack the requisite technology. Moreveover, even the laws against certain discrimination (e.g. religious discrimination; racial) allow seeming discrimination if it is reasonably related to a legitimate business purpose and there is reasonble no non-discriminatory way to accomplish that goal. For example--and to use an admittedly extreme example--a company could refuse to hire an Amish person as a traveling sales rep because he/she cannot drive and cannot be reached via cell phone; a claim of religous discrimination in this case would be rejected by the courts. So if the training program is important to the company and a minimum amount of computer equipment, internet access, etc. is required, then even if someone were to try to claim there is illegal discrimination going on (e.g. against some minority group which on average has less internet access or less-good computers; or against older employees for allegedly being less tech-savy), that claim would very likely fail because nowadays, having certain minimum technological resources, whether for training or for the job generally, is reasonable.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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