A recent study by researchers at Rutgers and Syracuse University reveals the extent to which disabled New York workers can suffer from discrimination in the workplace. This past fall, researchers sent fake cover letters to various employers across New York. In many of the cover letters sent, the "applicant" revealed he or she also had a disability. Researchers found that disabled individuals were 25 percent less likely to receive a callback or interview for the position. Researchers noted it was surprising, even to them, the extent to which employers discriminated against disabled applicants.
In the resumes and cover letters sent, the only difference was whether the "applicant" had a disability or not. The study only used disabilities which would have no effect on an applicant's productivity. In other words, the well-qualified applicants would have had no problems completing necessary work. The only explanation was a hesitancy to hire an applicant with a disability.
Under both state and federal law, it is illegal to discriminate against disabled applicants. Unfortunately, the results of this study show how illegal discrimination is still very much a factor in the workplace. Results such as these may help explain why disabled individuals are much more likely to be unemployed than the general population. According to The New York Times, which reported on the study, only 34 percent of working-age disabled individuals are employed, compared to 74 percent for others.
For disabled applicants and employees who have experienced illegal workplace discrimination, there are legal options available. Employers cannot take adverse employment actions against applicants and employees solely on the basis of disability. If you have experienced employment discrimination because of a disability, contact Serrins Fisher LLP, to discuss your situation and legal options.