Highly qualified job applicants who disclose a disability in their cover letters are commonly discriminated against by employers, according to the findings of a recent study out of Rutgers and Syracuse universities.
The researchers, who applied for thousands of accounting positions with fake cover letters and résumés, reportedly found that employers were more than 25 percent less likely to show interest in applicants who identified their disability in a cover letter when compared to applicants that did not.
Commenting on the study’ findings, Lisa Schur, a member of the Rutgers research team, stated:
I don’t think we were astounded by the fact that there were fewer expressions of interest [for those with disabilities]…But I don’t think we were expecting it to be as large.
Background on the Study
In conducting this study, researchers developed two different résumés – one for an inexperienced applicant who had just graduated from college and one for a well-qualified applicant with six years of experience.
They then created three different cover letters for both resumes, with one being for an applicant without any noted disabilities, one for a candidate with a spinal cord injury, and one was for an applicant with Asperger’s syndrome.
Researchers had predicted that résumés with more extensive qualifications would lead to less bias against disabled applicants.
What they ended up finding, however, was that:
- Employers were about 34 percent less likely to express interest in an experienced disabled job applicant.
- For disabled applicants just starting out their careers, employers were about 15 percent less likely to express interest.
- There was not a specific bias against the applicants with spinal cord injury versus those with Asperger’s syndrome.
- The disability discrimination seemed to be far more pronounced at smaller business (i.e., those with fewer than 15 employees) that are not covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In contrast, firms that have government contracts, as well as more reputation-sensitive publicly traded companies, tended to be more alert to issues related to disability discrimination.
As researchers explained in the published study:
The overall pattern of findings is consistent with the idea that disability discrimination continues to impede employment prospects of people with disabilities, and more attention needs to be paid to employer behavior and the demand side of the labor market for people with disabilities.
Contact a Los Angeles Employment Discrimination Lawyer at Broslavsky & Weinman, LLP
If you have been the target of disability discrimination – or any type of discrimination – at work, contact a Los Angeles employment lawyer at Broslavsky & Weinman, LLP to learn about your legal rights and options. You can contact our firm by calling (310) 575-2550 or by emailing us using the contact form on this page to set up a free initial consult with one of our lawyers.