How much consideration have you put into the possibility of disability discrimination happening within your company culture? It’s not a popular conversation, and one that many employers avoid after placing obligatory information into the employee handbook. But disability discrimination 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 working space for their staff.
According to a recent New York Times article which examined the status of disabled workers nearly a year after the pandemic began, less than half of the disabled workforce in New York City was employed. A year into the pandemic? The vast majority of those who were working lost their jobs. Most of them were employed in industries that are customer-forward (such as restaurants), were entry-level or the least senior among the staff. 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.
How to combat stigma
To begin with, employers need to take a hard look at their hiring practices. Are the policies that are supposed to protect the rights of candidates actually being followed? What preconceptions might hiring managers have that may contribute to stigmas regarding disabilies? It’s likely necessary to provide training for all employees, not just management, in order to address and correct any stigmas that may be present in the company. Education is the most powerful tool an employer can use in preventing disability discrimination.
From there practicing an open conversation about diversity and inclusion with employees is an excellent way to support a diversity initiative. If employees feel welcomed to make accommodation requests and to be vocal about any disabilities they may have, the company culture as a whole will be stronger.
Lastly, it is always important for an employer to be cognizant that many employees keep disabilities a secret for fear of being stigmatized. This underlines the importance of a company culture that welcomes feedback and actively meets the needs of its’ employees. 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.
As an employer, being able to identify discriminatory practices and mindsets in their staff is crucial in not only protecting their employee’s legal rights but also in ensuring the workplace they are providing is a good one to be in. 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.