Both the Illinois Human Rights Act (HRA) and the American Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibit discrimination in employment based on disability. However, those protections don't appear to be stopping employers from discriminating against potential employees based on perceptions of disability. A new study released shows that employers are discriminating against well-qualified candidates who have disclosed a disability.
In the study, researchers at Rutgers and Syracuse universities sent out resumes and cover letters for fake candidates, applying to more than 6,000 accounting jobs. The study found that employers reached out to the applicants with a disability 26% less often when compared to candidates without a disability. Employers expressed an interest in 6.58% of the non-disabled applicants, while only 4.87% of the applicants with a disability heard from the employers.
The researchers didn't seem surprised that there was less interest in the applications stating a disability, but they did not expect such a large disparity. A Cornell University survey in 2013 estimated that among individuals between the ages of 21 and 64, only 34% of those with disabilities were employed, while 74% of individuals without disabilities were employed.
The study, The Disability Employment Puzzle: A Field Experiment on Employer Hiring Behavior, was based on fictitious resume research, which has been used in previous studies to look at how employers consider applicants based on race and gender. In this study, the researchers developed a resume for a highly qualified applicant, and another resume for an applicant just out of college. For each resume, they crafted three different cover letters, for an applicant without mention of a disability, an applicant with a spinal cord injury, and an applicant claiming Asperger's syndrome.
With both the experienced and the inexperienced job resumes, the researchers found employers less likely to express interest in the disabled candidate compared to the candidate without a disability. In fact, a greater disparity was found in the highly- qualified fictitious candidates, with employers 34% less likely to show interest.
Based on their research, the study concludes, “the overall pattern of findings is consistent with the idea that disability discrimination continues to impede employment prospects of people with disabilities. More attention needs to be paid to the employer behavior and the demand side of the labor market for people with disabilities.”
The research also indicated smaller companies may be more likely to discriminate against people with a disability. One possible reason offered by the researchers was that the ADA does not apply to companies with less than 15 employees. However, in Illinois, the HRA prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of disability of any company with one or more employees. Additionally, the HRA prohibits discrimination for employment agencies, state and government employees, and even labor unions.
If you suspect that you were fired, denied a raise or passed over for a promotion because of discrimination for a disability, you should speak with an experienced attorney who understands employment discrimination cases. At Benassi & Benassi, we are committed to getting our clients the justice they deserve.