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How Wide Is The Employment Gap Between People With Disabilities And Those Without?

On Behalf of | Jan 22, 2024 | Workplace Discrimination

For disabled workers, securing and maintaining employment can be tough. Yet, with the implementation and utilization of the Americans with Disabilities Act over the last several decades, many Americans feel like things have gotten better for disabled workers. Although employment rates for disabled workers have fluctuated over time, the sad reality is that things haven’t improved that much.

Over the last several months, the employment outlook for disabled individuals has improved slightly. According to recent statistics, the percentage of those disabled individuals who are working age and employed increased by 0.4% between August and September 2023. That same statistic decreased by 0.4% for non-disabled individuals. This has led to an overall increase of 0.3% in employment across the entire disabled population, while overall employment levels for non-disabled individuals remained the same. This is positive news, as experts in the field indicate that these employment levels for disabled individuals are at historic highs.

However, disabled individuals are still significantly underemployed compared to non-disabled individuals. Over time, the employment rate for disabled individuals has hovered between 30 to 40%, while non-disabled workers have enjoyed consistent employment rates around 70%. So why has there been such a consistently large employment gap?

Lack of resources to accommodate

While the ADA requires some employers to make reasonable accommodations to allow disabled workers to enjoy equal employment opportunities, there are ways for them to wriggle free of these requirements. For example, if an employer can show that a requested accommodation creates an undue burden, then the requested accommodation can be denied.

Given that many disabled workers require special equipment and flexible work schedules, it’s oftentimes difficult for them to find an employer that is willing to meet their needs. This is especially true when the severity of the disability in question fluctuates over time.

Disabled people are also at a disadvantage in the workplace because of income limits on disability and Medicaid eligibility. Many disabled individuals rely on these support systems to help them remain stable, yet they’re jeopardized when these individuals work. This, in turn, has contributed to lower employment rates for disabled individuals.

The prevalence of workplace discrimination

Another big factor contributing to low employment rates for disabled workers is discrimination. Although the ADA protects against workplace discrimination, its prevalence is still alarming, with some studies showing that 10% of disabled workers report being discriminated against in the workplace.

The ramifications of workplace discrimination can be severe, too. While it might result in reassignment to less favorable work, reduced hours, lower pay, and missed promotional opportunities, reporting such discrimination often leads to retaliation and termination from employment.

And even the fear of potential discrimination is enough to keep many disabled workers out of the workforce. After all, those who end up being discriminated against face not only financial damages, but also harm to their emotional and psychological well-being.

Have you been discriminated against in the workplace?

If you’re a disabled individual who has suffered workplace discrimination, then you should take legal action to protect your rights. If you don’t, then you’ll be left without the closure, accountability, and compensation that you deserve.

We know that standing up and facing off against your employer or former employer is tough, but you can be brave and strong in having your voice heard.