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Relationship between Disability Workplace Discrimination and Firm Size

Much has been said in regards to the organizational variables that contribute to workplace discrimination against disabled individuals and all the nuances that affect the severity of this outcome. Most of these areas have therefore been extensively covered by the academic literature focused upon disability studies. A more focused look, however, is required to explain the clear trend seen in cases of reported discrimination against disabled individuals and decreasing firm size. This essay attempts to explore this relationship in light of the relevant academic literature pertaining to the field.

Firm size typically is not typically considered as being a significant factor in explaining the degree to which workplace discrimination occurs against disabled individuals, and therefore does not have a breadth of academic literature in order to supports its findings, save a few select studies conducted into this area. The findings typically point towards a high degree of discrimination within this dimension, specifically from the hiring process itself, which indicates the degree of stigma attached to people with various forms of disabilities. This is a critical issue to look into as it would help explain the precise variables that can be considered in order to tackle the issue from a policy perspective. Baldwin and Choe emphasized on the need to integrate theoretical findings on this dimension onto a policy front aimed at regulatory reform

The research conducted by Ameri, M., Schur, L., Adya, M., Bentley, F.S., McKay, P. and Kruse, D. is the foundational research that looked into this area, with having a sample size of 6,016 mock participants send in their resumes to various accounting firms, where one third of the candidates had disclosed a physical disability, whereas another third included Asperger’s syndrome, whereas the remaining portion of candidates had made no mention of disability on their cover letters. Given this rigorous research method, which substantially eliminates satisfaction bias, as in the survey method, revealed candidates with disabilities getting fewer call backs from prospective employees by a magnitude of over 25%. This study indicated that the bulk of hiring process discrimination took place at smaller firms, with the gap being most prominent at company’s employing fewer than 15 employees.

The degree of stigma associated with disability remains consistent to firm size, with no research indicating otherwise, which points towards the size of the company itself causing discrimination to take place within the hiring process level. A number of various reasons have been explored as to why this trend exists, and it most points towards a number of potential factors. This was indicated in the quantitative study performed by Button that had focused extensively upon the hiring process. Moreover, one such factor to be considered is the lack of a robust human resource structure in smaller firms which makes recruiters feel they may not be fully prepared to effectively manage an employee with existing physical disabilities. For this reason, smaller firms, and especially those with weak or non- existent human resource management functions typically hesitate to even consider personnel with disabilities from the hiring process itself (Kruse, Schur, Rogers, and Ameri). The extent of this problem is so severe that is had been found that this preferential treatment against disabled individuals takes place, even in the case where they are found to possess a larger skillset and more experience that abled individuals. For this reason, this level of discrimination was found to be significantly lower in larger companies with established human resource functions able to cater to the hiring of people with disabilities (Acemoglu and Angrist).

In addition to a solid human resource management foundation, another factor that had played into this discrimination was due to the manner in which regulatory features addressing these concerns have been structured. In the context of the USA, the Anti -Discrimination Act (ADA) has been established in a manner where its application is most effectively geared towards larger companies, and therefore its implementation scope does not cover firms hiring less than 15 individuals within the organization. Small firms especially which do not fall under the conditions laid out by the ADA tend to get away with discrimination at the hiring level, which is why a number of researchers have made the proposal to substantially expand the threshold to include smaller firms, or to come up with specialized anti- discrimination acts dealing with disabled individuals. This was the theme of the study performed by Lappalainen, Liira, Lamminpää, and Rokkanen.

There is also a degree of an uninformed perception found with smaller firms that typically is not the case with larger corporations, is the notion that the hiring of disabled individuals would result in the incurrence of higher costs in workplace adjustments, health benefits, off time, and other such factors, where this is rarely found to be the case. Wuellrich indicates in his comprehensive study looking into this area that this perception would need tackling even beyond the hiring process through educational campaigns as well as regulatory reform, as has been pushed forward by a number of researchers focusing into this area. In this regard specifically, the most effective response would be to place financial incentives associated with the hiring of disabled individuals as well as the integration of features into the work place that enhance accessibility, such as special parking, wheelchair ramps, and so on (Wuellrich).

All of this comes in a broader push seen globally to gear organizations towards a higher degree of inclusivity and diversity along major fronts, without the exclusion of people with disabilities. Often the push tends to include ethnic, racial, gender and religious minorities, with little to no mention of larger organizations. In the cases where this is pushed however remains isolated to major corporations, as opposed to the vast majority of smaller firms where people with disabilities remain obstructed from opportunities which had been a consistent theme in the research conducted by Kidd, Sloane, and Ferko. This exacerbates the overall issue on a broader context, as recruitment at larger firms remains far less likely for the average person in comparison to smaller firms, which tends to push people with disability away from basic opportunities.

Discrimination against disabled individuals often takes many fronts, but one trend that often gets overlooked is its relationship with firm size, with smaller firms most prone to discriminating against disabled individuals from the hiring process. This is due to the lack of a robust human resource management function, as well as no applicable regulatory provisions focusing on small firms. This is exacerbated by the false perception that disabled individuals would cost the business more than an abled individual, which further ostracizes away from opportunities and professional growth.

Works Cited

Acemoglu, Daron, and Joshua D. Angrist. “Consequences of Employment Protection? The Case of the Americans with Disabilities Act.” Journal of Political Economy 109.5 (2001): 915–957. Print.

Ameri, M., Schur, L., Adya, M., Bentley, F.S., McKay, P. and Kruse, D. T”he disability employment puzzle: A field experiment on employer hiring behavior.” ILR Review, 71(2) (2018), pp.329–364.

Baldwin, Marjorie L., and Chung Choe. “Re-examining the models used to estimate disability-related wage discrimination.” Applied Economics 46.12 (2014): 1393–1408. Web.

Button, Patrick. “Expanding Employment Discrimination Protections for Individuals with Disabilities: Evidence from California.” ILR Review 71.2 (2017): 365–393. Web.

Kidd, Michael P., Peter J. Sloane, and Ivan Ferko. “Disability and the labour market: an analysis of British males.” Journal of Health Economics 19.6 (2000): 961–981. Web.

Kruse, Douglas, Lisa Schur, Sean Rogers, and Mason Ameri. “Why Do Workers with Disabilities Earn Less? Occupational Job Requirements and Disability Discrimination.” British Journal of Industrial Relations 56.4 (2017): 798–834. Web.

Lappalainen, Liisa, Juha Liira, Anne Lamminpää, and Tanja Rokkanen. “Work disability negotiations: supervisors’ view of work disability and collaboration with occupational health services.” Disability and Rehabilitation 41.17 (2018): 2015–2025. Web.

Wuellrich, J.P.” The effects of increasing financial incentives for firms to promote employment of disabled workers.” Economics Letters, 107(2) (2010,) pp.173–176.