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Study reveals discrimination faced by disabled job applicants

Employers in New York and around the country routinely discriminate against disabled job applicants, according to the results of a study published on Nov. 10 by the National Bureau of Economic Research. The nonprofit organization came to this conclusion after sending out over 6,000 fake applications to accounting firms. Applications that mentioned no disability were responded to about 26 percent more often than those revealing either Asperger's Syndrome or a spinal cord injury.

Advocates for the disabled say that employers sometimes shy away from disabled candidates because of job performance concerns. Fears over being sued or worries about the costs of installing wheelchair ramps or other structural accommodations can also put employers off. Some people feel uncomfortable when in the company of disabled individuals, and this kind of prejudice can also influence hiring decisions.

The study arrives at a time when the rate of unemployment among those with disabilities is more than twice the 5.9 percent national average. Advocates say that employers often make hiring decisions based upon misinformation about the disabled, and they believe that better communication could help to solve the problem. They point out that disabled workers do not sue their employers more frequently than other workers, and expensive structural modifications are rarely required.

Studies such as this one reveal that workplace discrimination continues to be a major problem for many job seekers. Federal and state laws protect workers and job applicants against discrimination based on race, age, gender, religion or disability, but these cases can sometimes be difficult to prove. Attorneys with experience in this area could assess the merits of a discrimination case and explain the steps involved in pursuing a claim. Attorneys may also point out the serious consequences that employers could face if they took retaliatory action against a worker who filed such a claim.

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