How much consideration have you put into the possibility of disability discrimination within your company culture? Disabled workers are often employed in industries that are customer-forward (such as restaurants), or were entry-level or the least senior among their colleagues. This tells us that disabled workers are less likely to hold management positions and struggle to find jobs to begin with, regardless of their skill-level. Disability discrimination is at play here.
Unfortunately, once the obligatory information goes into the employee handbook, the conversation about disability discrimination often ceases. But it is a very real problem and employers need to be much more proactive in combating it. It takes more effort than what is legally required of them to create both a physically AND mentally safe workspace for their staff.
How to combat the stigma
Employers need to take a hard look at their hiring practices:
- Are the policies that are supposed to protect the rights of candidates being followed?
- What preconceptions might hiring managers have that may contribute to stigmas regarding disabilities? It’s likely necessary to provide training for all employees, not just management, in order to address and correct any stigmas present in the company. Education is the most powerful tool an employer can use in preventing disability discrimination.
- Keep the conversation going. A consistent dialogue about diversity and inclusion with employees is an excellent way to support initiatives. If employees feel welcomed to make accommodation requests and to be vocal about any disabilities they may have, the company culture will be stronger.
- Remember that employee may not feel comfortable speaking up, at least initially. Therefore it’s important for an employer to be cognizant that an employee might keep a disability secret for fear of being stigmatized. Employers should make policy decisions that assumes some employees need additional support, even if it’s not obvious at the time. Both employee and employer benefit from a workplace that acknowledges and encourages a diverse workforce.
Being able to identify discriminatory practices and mindsets in staff is crucial in not only protecting employee’s legal rights but also in ensuring the workplace is a safe space for everyone. If you’re feeling unsure how to go about recognizing weak points, the experienced HR team at Eos HR can help. We make sure small business teams are successful in maintaining the practices that support a productive company culture. Schedule a free consultation today to learn more.