Disability Discrimination At The Workplace

Disability discrimination across the public and private sectors of organizations is being observed at all levels of the workplace. Many employees are experiencing this act, and reporting the experience to the Equal Opportunity Commission.

Acts of disability discrimination are mainly experienced at the lower levels of private, and public organizations. Patterns of the behavior of disability discrimination are being monitored to continue to protect this class; which protection started with the enactment of the disability act of 1990.

The merging issue of diversity among private and public organizations have become very important in the last decade. In 2050 the United States’ racial minority growth will be 90 percent of the United States population growth according to the US census reports. The younger generation is becoming more diverse, and this trend shall increase in years ahead. This issue has become a major problem with disability discrimination in the workplace. Human Resource departments have begun increasing staff just to handle equal employment opportunity issues at the workplace.

The increased awareness by the incoming (EEO) cases in the workplace has required the action of the Human Resources departments to allow and reflect of 26.4 percent of the Human Resource departments as a whole. Employees that experience disability discrimination feels less satisfied with their employer, and most likely will resign. They will not give positive referrals to other applicants that are interested in becoming an employee of that company.

Disability discrimination can be damaging to organizations because of the lawsuits, and the disagreeable media coverage that covers each case. The Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act has amended the law to determine who is disabled, and if so it has to be determined by the court if this individual has been discriminated against. This is a reason for an employer not giving a reasonable accommodation to a qualified disabled employee. The employer not allowing a reasonable accommodation for a known physical or mental disability to a qualified individual is an act of disability discrimination; unless making an accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the business.

The EEOC has ruled that the qualified disabled individual does not have to accept the accommodation that the employer may offer him or her to enable him or her to do the job, but in doing so he or she will not be considered qualified. The federal government is proposing a rule that would force federal contractors, and sub-contractors to have 7 percent of their workforce to be people with disabilities. The 7 percent would be of each job group and not the workforce as a whole; therefore, if the contractors cannot meet the requirement then their contracts can be canceled.

This ruling is up for review until February of the next year; therefore, correspondence between the federal contractors, and the OOFCCP is still on the table. More Americans are becoming disabled every day, and so with the increase of disabled Americans comes the passing of new laws to protect this protected class of people.

According to the Labor Department, the unemployment rate for people with disabilities is at 13 percent. This is because many employers are not practicing fair hiring between non-disabled, and disabled Americans. 79.2 percent of working-age individuals with disabilities are outside the workforce altogether, because these individuals feel that they do not have a fair chance for employment, and can not receive a decent wage. The federal government wants to propose a plan that can get more disabled Americans working without putting a lot of burden on the employers.

The term disability is determined by a person having substantial, and long term conditions that last for 12 months or till death. The person can have either mental or physical ailment that qualifies them to be diagnosed disabled. These conditions can include illnesses such as Aids, post-traumatic stress syndrome, or even major depression. The law does not require an applicant to report a disability condition to an employer unless stated by the contract of employment. An equal opportunity policy or policies should be in place that covers disability discrimination in the workplace. The organization should encourage the disabled applicant to report his or her disability condition without feeling shame or disrespect. Recruiting should be forward and in context. A policy should state that accommodation is available upon request, and the facility is handicap accessible. Paperwork for hire should be reviewed in its entirety, and explained if need be before the contract of employment is signed. The workplace should be up to disability standards, for example, ramps to facilitate access to the facility, and accessible toilets. It may be appropriate to put in place an occupational health provider to help with accommodations and future health issues that can cause the disabled workers to be absent from work. It is very important to establish a one on one evaluation if the disabled employee work performance is low. This lack of performance could be, because of the disabled condition of the employee. Some employers just terminate the disabled employee without a review or check-up, and this action can cause a lawsuit to occur. If a leave of absence is necessary until the employee condition is better to follow up with the employee, and the health provider to determine if the employee can return to work. If the employee can return to work then set in place a return to work interview; this will allow the employee to state the duties that he or she can perform with their current condition. If possible transfer the disabled employee to a job position that they can perform; this will put less burden on the business, and lower undue hardship. Also, this action can lower future issues that may occur in the future by the disabled employee.

Younger people with disabilities have a negative employment prospect in future endeavors to become employed if society establishes the low potential for success in the work-force. The younger people reduce their drive, aspiration, and motivation to succeed. The unemployment rate is higher among younger people, because of this reason. Many younger people with disabilities feel that they don’t need to work full time. They try to achieve a job of higher pay, and social class. The reason for these actions is the society in which these younger disabled people live to have them believing they have lower self-worth.

In Australia, an experiment was conducted to determine the behaviors of younger people with a job, and without a job that is disabled which are ages 15-29. The results were 47.1 percent of disabled youth were not in any kind of employment. Compared to 26.8 percent of youth that was not in any kind of employment; thus younger disabled people are less likely to be employed at certain time points. Those that are employed are less likely to remain employed in the future; however, if employment plans or programs are enacted for youths that are disabled to get work, and stay working than the percentage of working disabled youth would increase. The general public makes assumptions on who is disabled, and who is not. They also make opinions about what it means to be disabled, and these opinions go unchallenged. The major issue of handicap accessibility is the expensive cost to make upgrades to the housing, transportation systems, and the work-place. As well as providing computer technologies. Employers are concerned about paying these large costs, and in return ignore non-economic concerns. This is a practice that has been used in the past; mostly all major or severe cases of mental, and physical disabled people were placed in a state institution. They were given medication treatment and shock treatment. Society felt that the disabled were mentally insane, and needed to be locked up 24 hours a day. Now that laws have passed, and are now protecting the disabled. Employers can not ignore the issues of disability, but they sure can put some issues on the wayside until federal compliance is enforced. Many disabilities are not traditional, but occur or develop later on in life; however, physical disabilities can occur at any-time. Many mentally ill disabled people can be treated under the care of a health provider by medication, and maybe therapy. They can resume living, and working in society normally. In the late 1970s, there was a program enacted called Operation Access; it was designed to recruit, and train more employees with disabilities. The program allowed visibility of issues of disability concerns in the workplace.

The main reason why disability issues in the work-place were not addressed as there were not a lot of disabled employees on staff at many of the companies of that time. The enactment of the disabilities act of 1990 allowed many of the issues that were not addressed to come to the surface. It gave hope to the disabled to find, and become employed by employers.

The United States Supreme Court decision for the case of Tennessee VS Lane in 2001 was a major turning point for disabled Americans. The court ruled that it had power above section 5 of the fourteenth amendment to protect the protected class of disabled Americans. The case surrounded a group home incident where anyone with mental retardation had to have a permit to stay in the group home with other residents. The court also ruled that court hearings should include the disabled Americans or Americans involved. The courthouses should be handicap accessible, and that due process allows the state to provide reasonable accommodation for disabled Americans to attend judicial proceedings. So it was a good possibility for a case to be tried unfairly because the disabled American was not present at the court proceeding. Thus the employers who are fighting against a disability discrimination lawsuit can ease their way out of restitutions to the disabled employee. The constitutional rights of a disabled employee could not be fully protected in court if discriminative acts were practiced which acts were causing the court hearings to be non-handicap accessible.

A recent poll by the Disabled American Veterans Group stated that 1701 disabled veterans that can not find employment, because of their disabilities would repeat their military careers. This is 8 out of 10 of the total 1701 that was asked. The issues faced by disabled veterans today are low support, healthcare, and low disability benefits. They also are struggling to find employment especially the younger disabled veterans. Only 38 percent of disabled American veterans feel that they received the support they needed to re-enter civilian life. Only 44 percent feel they received the disability benefits that they were promised; many I felt that they were not treated well by the federal government. Some disabled veterans are homeless and began to use drugs. As well as alcohol to cover up the mental disabilities, and hardship. These are experiences that they receive when they return to civilian life. There are a lot who receive great services, but feel like employers are being discriminative against them. Although 85 percent like when they are congratulated for the services they rendered for our country.

Human resources have three key obstacles to hiring disabled Americans, and these are the following: negative perceptions; human resources believe that hiring disabled Americans will create more work for the supervisors. Lack of external hiring support; few external resources are willing to help employers hire disabled Americans. Many disabled Americans are afraid to identify themselves as disabled, because of the fear of rejection from the employer. The last key is the lack of internal hiring support because budgets do not normally exist for the support of help hiring disabled Americans.

There are training, and accommodation practices involved when hiring disabled Americans. Many employers do not have the funds to put towards that extra training for the human resource department. There are three categories of employers when it comes to hiring, and dealing with disabled American issues. One is the discriminator; this employer does not have a budget or program to hire the disabled, and does not plan on having one in the future. Second is the inclusive employer; this employer does not recruit disabled Americans often; however, it has a diverse workforce, and is willing to add disabled Americans to that work-force. The third is the choir; this employer is tolerant of disabled Americans, but are willing to add them to their workforce.

Many employers believe that, because an applicant has a disability they cannot perform the job well. So the reason for not hiring the disabled is because of bad performance. The federal government has implemented tax credits to companies that hire disabled Americans so that more disabled Americans can join the work-force. Some steps can be taken to hire a disabled worker. These are the following: eliminate job mismatches; create an online resource for hiring the disabled and create a database that can list all the disabled that are interested in applying for a job at your company.

Wharton Management set out to research what was needed to ensure the hiring of disabled workers, and what can lead to disability discrimination in the workplace. Though employment discrimination against people with disabilities was outlawed in 1990; this type of discrimination is still practiced to this day. The laws for this protected class are becoming more severe against employers who violate the ADA. Many companies are beginning to hire more disabled, because of the mainstream issues in the courts. Many incidents lead to disability discrimination at the work-place, and many disabled Americans do not know how to handle an issue that may have happened in the workplace that leads to discrimination.

There was a lawsuit with Walmart in recent years that caused a disabled American to win 50,000 in a settlement. Walmart violated the ADA by not accommodating the employee. In 2012 the EEOC recorded 26,379 claims in the United States for disability discrimination. This was a record high in the United States, but in the private sector, there were 99,412 charges filed. Every year the number of disabled Americans increases. What are we to do about the unfair practices of employers that treat disabilities as a crippling disease.

According to the Department of Labor report in November 2015 the unemployment rate hit 10.5 percent in October 2015. While the economy as a whole grows at an alarming rate of 271,000 jobs in October. The overall unemployment rate for the nation hit an all-time low of 5 percent in October. Only 1/3 of 20 million disabled Americans are employed according to the United States Census in 2013. Congress has passed laws for agencies to develop programs to help disabled Americans find work, and stay employed. Many have a notion that Social Security or Medicare benefits can, and are in some cases are discouraging disabled Americans from wanting to work even if it is a part-time job. But public programs do not cover all the barriers that disabled American faces. Some instances many disabled Americans can’t work while on some federal programs so they stay under poverty lines, and do not try to work for any employer. But there are a few laws that were made to include disabled Americans for example, section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the National and Community Service Act (NCSA), and the Domestic Volunteer Service Act (DVSA).

Human resource managers have to implement plans, and policies to meet the guidelines of the federal government. Many issues of disability discrimination go unnoticed because it usually happens at the lower levels of a company. The lower management does not know of these laws that protect the disabled American, because many are not trained to adhere to the disability management policies of the company. The disabled American does not know of the laws that protect them most of the time, because of the lack of resources to inform them of such laws of protection. Some employers see a disabled applicant as a liability and an unnecessary expense that needs to be avoided. Some disabled Americans do not need a request for accommodation. They are very high functioning but need just minor adjustments to be able to work a job. Maybe a flexible work schedule or only work so many hours a day, or a resting period in between 15, 30, or 60-minute intervals. The ADA is approaching 25 years since it has been enacted, and a recent study by the Kessler Foundation results from the state that most disabled Americans are overcoming difficult employment barriers. These actions will change the future of disabled Americans in the work-force. The year of 2015, 2/3 of disabled Americans were striving to work in some shape or form. Only 5 percent have never worked or are looking for work. 3000 disabled Americans were surveyed, and 43 percent said they are working at an average of 35.5 hours a week. The barriers that the disabled American faces are education or training which 43 percent stated. 38 percent said that they will overcome those barriers. Also, they stated that the most difficult work-related barrier is obtaining health insurance, because of pre-conditions. The more disabled Americans achieve employment. The more managers and top management will implement policies to help employ more people with disabilities.

Back in the year of 2008, I was employed by the Meijer Corporation; the company hired me as a cashier. I applied for a sales floor position, but the manager Mr. Moreland told me if I work as a cashier for a while they would transfer me to the sales floor position later. So I agreed. So I worked as a cashier for six months, and my back started to become very painful. I had a previous back injury at another employer. So I asked one of the managers to lower my hours, because of my back pain. I was required to give a doctor’s note. At that moment everything was alright with accommodating me, and I was happy. I called my doctor’s office, and scheduled an appointment; however, I was still in pain so I began to start taking over the counter pain medicine. So I felt a little bit of relief, and I was able to continue working. I saw my doctor a week later, and he said my back was inflamed again. He gave me the appropriate medicine to take. I took the letter to work and gave it to my head manager of my department. So the management decided to move me to a position at self-checkout because it was less movement. The letter from my doctor stated,” if possible move me to a position that had less stress on my back, and I would follow up with him in a month.” So I started at self-checkout, and it was great. But the medicine that I was on had me a bit sedated, so I was not fully operational. So about half-way through a month my head manager called me to his office, and said, “You look like a zombie out there. I need you to pick up your pace, and help these customers get out the door.” I returned to the sales floor. I immediately had an anxiety attack, and so I clocked out. I went home. So a month passed, and I happen to notice when I came to work as I checked my work location for that day. It said that I was to work back on the register. So I went to one of the managers and asked them what was going on. She said that my month was up, and I had to go back to the register. I broke down pleading telling her I was not able to perform that duty. So she allowed me to stay at the self-checkout that day. So I decided to ask my psychiatrist to write me a note stating my mental condition, and that I needed a transfer to a Greeter position. I discussed the situation with my doctor, and he gave me advice on the matter. I took the letter to my manager of the front end which was Mr. Moreland; I was told he would get back to me by the end of the day. So I waited and worked until the end of my shift. Then I went to talk with Mr. Moreland. He told me because I have disabilities he could not allow me to work. So I was placed on disability leave until further notice. The first step I took was calling the food union. I was on the union and pay dues. I left a message and received a call in about three days. I told the representative what the situation was, and she asked me what my demands were. I told her I wanted to be reinstated and wanted to be transferred to a Greeter position. I also wanted back pay for any hours that I lost from work. After the call ended I waited for a return call for two months, and never received one. So I called the food union back and left a message. I did not get a callback. A week or so later I got a call from the disability management department of Meijer. I spoke with a lady named Margo; she discussed the situation and afterward told me I could not return to work until my disabilities were cured or that I did not have any disabilities anymore. The next step I took was calling the EEOC and filed a claim. I went to the EEOC office and wrote a report on the issues that took place at my employer. The EEOC then decided to investigate, and for a month or so I waited. I received a few calls from an investigator on certain matters that happened, and he asked for my demands. The Meijer Corporation did not want to meet my demands so the EEOC sent me a letter stating the right to sue. So I searched for a lawyer, and many lawyers told me that disability discrimination is hard to prove. Meijer was a big company to fight in court. It would cost the firm a lot of upfront money to represent me. I did not have the money to pay upfront for the case; therefore, I chose to file the documents myself in federal court. Meijer tried to get the case dismissed without prejudice, but the judge did not rule in their favor. I received a letter from Meijer stating that they wanted to meet. They wanted to meditate, and maybe reinstate me back to work. I declined because the same managers that were treating me unfairly were still employed at that location. I was planning on traveling to Egypt in Africa to finish college at the American University of Cairo. So I decided to settle. The terms did not allow me to ever work at another Meijer as long as I live. I won the case but lost.

As time goes on I continue to wonder if the working world will ever fully accept people with disabilities.

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William West I Manuel

Based out of Cincinnati, Ohio. University of Cincinnati alumi in the studies of Electronic Media. Graduate of King University with a bachelor's degree in business.

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