Disability discrimination persists in the workplace

Milwaukee PBS has been a regular part of our city’s broadcast media for nearly six decades. The TV station recently aired a report on Newshour that highlighted an issue important to many of our readers: disability discrimination in the workplace.

One of the people interviewed for the program was economist Douglas Kruse. In 2006, his research team sent out 6,000 applications online for accounting jobs. The applications were divided into thirds: a third said the applicants had a spinal cord injury; another said the applicant had Asperger’s syndrome and another third did not mention a disability.

The results were perhaps predictable: the applicants who mentioned disabilities were 26 percent less likely to receive notice of employer interest.

Kruse, who is a paraplegic, said employers are often uncomfortable with people with disabilities and are uncertain about how they might fit in with the rest of the workforce.

Also interviewed for the report was a woman who spent three and a half years trying to land a position with a bank after her former employer went out of business. She said she omitted her legal blindness from her résumé in order to get her foot in the door at banks.

Despite getting calls for interviews, she said that once she began discussing with potential employers accommodations she would need, she said she was greeted with “dead silence” from the employers.

She said she understands that employers might have doubts about hiring people with disabilities, but that there is more to the story than that. “I understand the doubt and the questions, but you are discriminating just based on the what-ifs of someone’s disability.”

People who have been discriminated against in hiring, firing or in other aspects of employment can speak with an attorney at the law offices of Alan C. Olson & Associates.


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