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Overlooked and Underutilized: People with Disabilities are an Untapped Human Resource

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Abstract

The retirement of baby boomers along with a smaller cohort group of young people replacing them poses a challenge for employers in the future—where will they find the workers they need? One largely untapped source of human resources is people with disabilities (PWDs). Why have employers mostly ignored this large labor pool? This research used a semistructured interview approach with 38 executives across a broad array of industries and geographic regions to examine why employers don't hire PWDs and what they believe can be done to change this situation. Results show that most employers are not very proactive in hiring PWDs and that most employers hold stereotypical beliefs not supported by research evidence. © 2008 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
T
he labor force is growing at a slower
rate than in the past, and this means
there will be tighter labor markets in
the future. The slower growth has two
primary causes: an increasing number
of older people in the workforce and a
smaller number of young new entrants to re-
place them. Here are some projections from
the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2005):
The projected labor force growth will be
affected by the aging of the baby-boom
generation—persons born between 1946
and 1964.
In 2014, baby-boomers will be ages 50 to
68 years, and this age group will grow
significantly over the 2004–14 period.
The labor force will continue to age,
with the number of workers in the 55-
and-older group projected to grow by
49.1%, nearly five times the 10%
growth projected for the overall labor
force.
Youths—those between the ages of 16
and 24—will decline in numbers and
lose share of the labor force, from 15.1%
in 2004 to 13.7% in 2014.
Prime-age workers—those between the
ages of 25 and 54—also will lose share of
the labor force, from 69.3% in 2004 to
65.2% in 2014.
The 55-and-older age group, on the
other hand, is projected to gain share of
the labor force, from 15.6% to 21.2%.
OVERLOOKED AND
UNDERUTILIZED: PEOPLE WITH
DISABILITIES ARE AN UNTAPPED
HUMAN RESOURCE
MARK L. LENGNICK-HALL, PHILIP M. GAUNT, AND
MUKTA KULKARNI
The retirement of baby boomers along with a smaller cohort group of young
people replacing them poses a challenge for employers in the future—where
will they find the workers they need? One largely untapped source of human
resources is people with disabilities (PWDs). Why have employers mostly
ignored this large labor pool? This research used a semistructured interview
approach with 38 executives across a broad array of industries and geographic
regions to examine why employers don’t hire PWDs and what they believe can
be done to change this situation. Results show that most employers are not
very proactive in hiring PWDs and that most employers hold stereotypical
beliefs not supported by research evidence. © 2008 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Correspondence to: Mark L. Lengnick-Hall, Professor of Management, Department of Management, University
of Texas at San Antonio, One UTSA Circle, San Antonio, TX 78249-0634, Phone: 210-458-7303, Fax: 210-458-
5783, E-mail: mark.lengnickhall@utsa.edu.
HHuummaann RReessoouurrccee MMaannaaggeemmeenntt,,Summer 2008, Vol. 47, No. 2, Pp. 255–273
© 2008 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Published online in Wiley InterScience (www.interscience.wiley.com).
DOI: 10.1002/hrm.20211
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Where will employers find the workers
they need in the future? Some sources of
labor that employers rely upon today will not
be sufficient for meeting future staffing needs
(Toosi, 2002). For example, since the demo-
graphic trends of more old workers and fewer
younger worker replacements is a worldwide
phenomenon, outsourcing will not answer
the problem sufficiently. And, while the in-
creasing labor force participation rate of
women helped meet the staffing needs of em-
ployers during the period 1960–1990, it is not
expected to increase substantially in the fu-
ture. While new immigrants
(largely from Mexico and Latin
America) will offset some of the
slower growth in the labor force,
their average education levels will
be lower than the U.S.-born popu-
lation, which will present prob-
lems for employers in need of
more educated workers. One an-
swer to the staffing needs of em-
ployers in the future is to use a
largely untapped and currently
available labor pool—people with
disabilities (PWDs).
Based upon the American
Community Survey (as analyzed
by researchers at Cornell Univer-
sity), here are some relevant sta-
tistics that describe the preva-
lence of PWDs in the labor force
and the magnitude of their avail-
ability for meeting employer needs (Rehabil-
itation Research and Training Center on Dis-
ability Demographics and Statistics, 2005).
In 2005:
21,455,000 (12.6%) of the 169,765,000
working-age individuals reported one or
more disabilities.
The employment rate of working-age
PWDs was 38.1%. Therefore, approxi-
mately 60% of working-age PWDs were
not employed.
The employment rate of working-age
people without disabilities was 78.3%.
Therefore, approximately 20% of work-
ing-age people without disabilities were
not employed.
The gap between the employment rates
of working-age people with and without
disabilities was 40.3%.
Of working-age PWDs, 22.6% were em-
ployed in full-time/full-year employment
(in contrast to 56.2% of working-age peo-
ple without disabilities).
Therefore, of the approximately
21,455,000 working-age PWDs, approxi-
mately 8,174,355 of them are employed and
13,280,645 of them are not employed. And,
of the approximately 8,174,355 working-age
PWDs who are employed, approximately
1,806,432 are employed full-time/full-year.
So, if employers need new sources of
workers and PWDs are available, why aren’t
more PWDs obtaining employment? And,
what can be done to get these two groups—
employers and PWDs—together?
From a theoretical standpoint, this study
fits into a line of research examining the at-
titudes and reactions of persons without dis-
abilities toward persons with disabilities
(Stone & Colella, 1996). However, research to
date has been conducted primarily by social
and rehabilitation psychologists and not fo-
cused on work settings (Colella, 1998). Addi-
tionally, most of this research has focused on
the supply-side perspective—examining is-
sues related to the preparation of PWDs to be
good job candidates. Virtually no research
has examined the demand-side perspective—
attempting to understand why employers
hire (or don’t hire) people with disabilities.
This study begins to address this research
need.
This study makes several contributions to
the research literature examining the persist-
ent low employment rate of PWDs (e.g., Sta-
pleton & Burkhauser, 2003). First, we iden-
tify reasons employers give for not hiring
PWDs. Second, we compare employer rea-
sons for not hiring PWDs to research find-
ings on PWDs in the workplace. We address
the question of whether research supports or
disconfirms employer justifications for not
hiring PWDs. Finally, we report the recom-
mendations of employers regarding what
they believe will help improve the employ-
ment of PWDs.
Virtually no
research has
examined the
demand-side
perspective—
attempting to
understand why
employers hire (or
don’t hire) people
with disabilities.
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Overlooked and Underutilized: People with Disabilities Are an Untapped Human Resource 257
Study Procedures
To learn more about why PWDs are not hired
more frequently by employers and how that
situation could be changed, we interviewed
38 corporate executives from companies that
were small (0–49 employees), medium
(50–499 employees), and large (500+ em-
ployees) in eight states in the United States
(California, Colorado, Georgia, Kansas,
Maryland, New Jersey, Texas, and Virginia)
and Washington, D.C.1
A semistructured interview research
method was chosen for this study for the fol-
lowing reasons (Bachiochi & Weiner, 2002).
First, this research is exploratory. Our objec-
tive was to discover why employers fail to
hire PWDs and what they believe can be
done to change the situation. Second, open-
ended questions allow research participants
the opportunity to explain their feelings
more fully. Participants were able to provide
interpretations not anticipated by the re-
searchers. Third, an interview research
method provides an opportunity to obtain
greater depth and richness of data than what
is typically gained from questionnaire sur-
veys.
The interviews occurred over a period of
nine months (April–December 2003). The
question protocol was created based upon an
extensive review of the literature on the em-
ployment of PWDs. Our previous experience
in interviewing company representatives re-
garding their employment of PWDs led us to
believe that there was great reluctance to
speak about these issues in regard to their spe-
cific organizations. Consequently, we con-
structed our interview questions to focus at
the industry level in order to elicit more can-
did responses. Interviews took place in partic-
ipants’ offices, typically with no other people
present. Each participant was asked the same
set of questions and allowed to respond in an
open-ended fashion. Questions covered the
following issues: (a) how proactive their in-
dustry is in hiring PWDs, (b) the most effec-
tive ways to encourage hiring PWDs, (c) rea-
sons why PWDs are not hired in the industry,
(d) arguments likely to persuade employers to
hire PWDs, (e) why some companies in the
industry are more proactive than others in
hiring PWDs, (f) familiarity of industry em-
ployers with federal tax incentives for hiring
PWDs, (g) the importance of top-level leader-
ship in promoting the hiring of PWDs, (h) the
importance of the human resource
department in promoting the hir-
ing of PWDs, (i) internal organiza-
tional processes and procedures
within companies in the industry
that might contribute to increased
hiring of PWDs, and (j) benefits of
hiring PWDs.
Results
Data from the interviews were
transcribed and responses to ques-
tions were analyzed to determine
commonalities and differences.
Few differences were found in re-
sponses across different types or
sizes of organizations represented
by the participants. In the follow-
ing sections, we summarize what
was learned from these execu-
tives. First, we summarize the re-
sponses of participants concern-
ing how proactive employers are
regarding hiring people with dis-
abilities. Next, we summarize the
responses of participants about
why employers don’t hire PWDs.
How Proactive Are
Employers Regarding
Hiring People With
Disabilities?
Employers interviewed in this
study expressed a range of opin-
ions about how proactive their
various industries were in hiring
PWDs. However, the majority re-
sponded that their industries
were not very proactive. The fol-
lowing quotes illustrate employer percep-
tions:
I don’t think it is a priority at all. I don’t
think they have focused on it. A few
Our previous
experience in
interviewing
company
representatives
regarding their
employment of
PWDs led us to
believe that there
was great
reluctance to speak
about these issues
in regard to their
specific
organizations.
Consequently, we
constructed our
interview questions
to focus at the
industry level in
order to elicit more
candid responses.
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years ago when the ADA legislation was
developed, there was some discussion
about it, but I don’t think it is anything
that has been a priority though so I
think it has been very little.
Well, as far as qualified, I guess, as most
people would think, we have not been
too supportive of it or too proactive. I
think we have all made some attempts.
I don’t think they have been very proac-
tive but I do think it has been more than
in the past. First of all, not just
because of the ADA but a lot of
companies like ours are much
more into diversity and if they
are like ours the first thing that
comes to mind with diversity is
people’s race and some of the
obvious things that people
think of. I know years ago when
we first started talking about
this, I would always raise my
hand and say, well, what about
people with disabilities? and
they all looked at me and it got
to whenever they brought up
things they would look at me
and say, oh yes, and add dis-
abilities. They knew I was going
to say that. So I think more so than they
have been. Is it enough? I don’t see that
yet but I think the whole diversity ini-
tiative is a real help in that area.
The last quote expresses an interesting
observation. When most employers talk
about diversity efforts in general, they seem
to focus on diversity defined as race/ethnic-
ity and gender. Disability often is not men-
tioned or included in corporate proclama-
tions about diversity.
In the next section, we describe partici-
pant responses that help explain why em-
ployers may not be proactive in hiring
PWDs. Employers have beliefs about the ca-
pabilities, constraints, and costs associated
with PWDs that may result in reluctance to
hire them. If these beliefs are based upon
stereotypes and lack of information, PWDs
may be denied access to jobs they could per-
form, and employers may be denied access to
productive employees.
Why Employers Don’t Hire People
With Disabilities
Employers interviewed in this study expressed
common concerns about hiring PWDs (see
Table I). They are concerned that PWDs (a)
may lack necessary knowledge, skills, and abil-
ities; (b) may not be able to perform physically
demanding tasks; (c) may increase health care
costs; (d) will require costly accommodations;
(e) may create safety problems; (f) may sue for
discrimination; (g) may hurt coworker morale;
and (h) may affect customers negatively. These
concerns can be categorized into three major
themes: (1) job qualifications/performance
concerns; (2) costs associated with hiring
PWDs; and (3) reactions/responses of others.
One concern expressed by a number of
employers is that PWDs may not have the
necessary knowledge, skills, and abilities to
perform needed jobs. The following quotes
illustrate this concern:
. . . trying to hire someone with a dis-
ability, the main concern is . . . having
the skills you would need to be on the
air to be able to do those things that
would actually apply.
I think it would be the perception that
people with disabilities don’t have
communication skills and wouldn’t be
able to problem-solve at a faster pace,
wouldn’t be able to independently
problem-solve.
Another concern of employers in some
industries is whether PWDs will be able to
perform physically demanding tasks. The
following quotes illustrate this concern:
In our industry, one of the main things
we have to do is everybody we hire has
to have the ability to lift and so I don’t
know if that would affect people with
disabilities or not but I think it is defi-
nitely an issue. As far as my industry, I
When most
employers talk
about diversity
efforts in general,
they seem to focus
on diversity defined
as race/ethnicity
and gender.
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Overlooked and Underutilized: People with Disabilities Are an Untapped Human Resource 259
think that the problem with hiring
anyone with a disability is lifting. You
have to be able to lift. If you can’t lift,
you can’t deliver. I don’t know if I can
help with that.
. . . it’s just in the multiple driving from
location to location often times visiting
eight to ten customers in a given day,
going in facilities and trying—so I
think there might be some hesitancy
would be my guess—that is more of a
challenge than for somebody who is
not disabled.
Another common concern expressed by
a number of employers is that PWDs will be
less productive than nondisabled workers.
The following quote illustrates this concern:
They wouldn’t be able to either do the
work efficiently or effectively; there-
fore, they would affect the bottom line.
Since we are professional services, we
get paid based on our services—that is
normally an hourly rate, but in some
cases it is a fixed contract amount. So if
you have a fixed contract amount for
$50,000 and you end up spending time
in excess of that, you lose money.
Employers fear that employees with dis-
abilities may increase health care costs, and
thereby raise overall labor costs. The follow-
ing quote illustrates this concern:
The only one that I can think of and I
have not experienced this (so this is not
fact basis, this is just surmising) would
be what we are all experiencing—med-
ical costs skyrocketing . . . does an indi-
vidual (with a disability) bring . . . an
inherently higher medical cost?
Employers are concerned that reasonable
accommodations may be difficult to imple-
Human Resource Management DOI: 10.1002/hrm
Job Qualification/ People with disabilities may lack appropriate job qualifications.
Performance Concerns
People with disabilities cannot perform physically demanding tasks.
People with disabilities will be less productive than nondisabled
workers.
Costs Associated With People with disabilities incur higher health care costs than those
Hiring People With without disabilities.
Disabilities
Reasonable accommodations are difficult and costly to implement.
People with disabilities have more accidents and pose more safety
problems than nondisabled employees.
People with disabilities will sue employers.
Reactions/Responses Coworkers may react negatively to working with people with disabilities.
of Others
Customers may react negatively to employees with disabilities,
affecting the company’s bottom line.
There is a fear of the unknown (e.g., how to communicate, how to treat
them) in working with people with disabilities.
TABLE I Employer Concerns About Hiring People With Disabilities
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ment and may be costly. The following
quote illustrates this concern:
I think the perception is that the
strenuous requirements for manufac-
turing and the accommodations that
would have to be made to be able to
handle certain handicaps. We buy ma-
chine tools from manufacturers and
[for] those manufacturers, the design
of those tools, are not really handi-
capped-friendly. I mean you have to
lean way over into a tool to load it
and if you get into the automotive in-
dustry and the manufacturing where
there are a lot of automation stuff, it
is different. But when you are talking
about typical machine shop–type
manufacturing, there is very little au-
tomation and there is very little au-
tomation available to the manufactur-
ers so . . . you would have to almost
make it or have someone to design it
in order to accommodate the handi-
capped.
Employers are also con-
cerned about safety issues.
Workers with disabilities may
not be able to safely perform
jobs and/or potentially endan-
ger their coworkers. The follow-
ing quotes illustrate this con-
cern:
There are always . . . the work
comp issues. You are liable for
persons getting hurt . . . I
think probably my primary
concern would be work com-
pensation issues, injuries, and
liabilities.
I think the one that is typically stereo-
typed could be physical disability—in
terms of if someone has a hearing im-
pairment [it] becomes very scary in
having them in a manufacturing envi-
ronment where you have moving
things, particularly like overhead
cranes, forklifts, and other transporta-
tion vehicles where they may not hear
them when they are behind them.
. . . as far as eyesight, there again most
of it (manufacturing) requires decent
eyesight in order to perform the job.
The other would be a lot of the manu-
facturing jobs in terms of assembly or
in our case detailed masking [you] have
to have very good use of your hands. I
would think that that would probably
be typically why people (employers)
don’t look for individuals [with disabil-
ities].
Employers are concerned that PWDs may
be more prone to suing for discrimination
than their nondisabled counterparts. The
following quotes illustrate this concern:
If somebody is qualified and makes an
application, I think they would get
equal consideration with a nondis-
abled individual but I would just have
to say since there is not a priority and
in addition to that—candidly—I do
think that as the ADA legislation de-
veloped, HR people are perhaps seeing
that people with disabilities have sued
employers. That has had a negative
impact on the employment of the dis-
abled.
It is like saying “We are an Equal Op-
portunity Employer.” You know you
put another sign on the wall, you ex-
pose yourself to more potential govern-
ment regulations or abuse if they come
in and there are grievances filed or law-
suits filed—whatever—it just opens the
door potentially for more headaches.
Employers are concerned that having
employees with disabilities may hurt the
morale of other employees. The following
quote illustrates this concern:
. . . the other one would be how it
might affect morale within other peo-
ple [coworkers] and the expectations of
one person versus another.
Employers are
concerned that
PWDs may be more
prone to suing for
discrimination than
their nondisabled
counterparts.
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Overlooked and Underutilized: People with Disabilities Are an Untapped Human Resource 261
Employers are concerned about how cus-
tomers may react to employees with disabil-
ities and how this might affect their bottom
lines. The following quote illustrates this
concern:
. . . if you are related to the public, you
also have to be concerned about how
well your customers will accept people
with disabilities.
While many employers expressed spe-
cific concerns about hiring PWDs, a number
expressed a more generalized fear of the un-
known in hiring PWDs. This was best ex-
pressed in the following quote:
I think it is a fear of the unknown. I
don’t think there is any fear of some-
body in a wheelchair is going to look
funny or this person has a disability
that makes them look a little bit dif-
ferent or we have to accommodate
this person with giving them some
kind of a different PC or chair or
something. I don’t think it is any of
those. I think it is “I don’t know.” For
companies as large as ours, it is not
the insurance—a lot of smaller com-
panies can say I am afraid what they
are going to do with our insurance—
that is not a factor. I think it is the un-
known and, gosh, do we know what
to do. The first time we hired one—
when the manager said this just isn’t
working out and things are going
wrong and I said did you write them
up, fire them—and they were ap-
palled, they didn’t know that they
could treat this type of person nor-
mally and it blew them away, and he
is still there, by the way, that was
eight years ago when she asked me.
It is apparent from the range of concerns
expressed above that employers are reluctant
to hire PWDs for a variety of reasons. How-
ever, what is not apparent is whether these
concerns are justified. In the next section, we
review the research evidence that addresses
employer concerns about hiring PWDs and
contrast the research evidence with em-
ployer beliefs.
Are Employer Concerns About Hiring
People With Disabilities Justified?
The interviews we conducted, along with
previous research assessing employer atti-
tudes toward hiring PWDs, suggest that per-
ceptions are often formed with little objec-
tive information. We know what concerns
employers have about hiring PWDs, but are
their concerns justified? To answer this ques-
tion, we reviewed the research lit-
erature addressing some of the
major issues in hiring PWDs
(Lengnick-Hall, 2007; see Table II
for a summary).
Do People With Disabilities
Lack Necessary Knowledge,
Skills, Abilities, and Other
Characteristics?
One explanation for the low em-
ployment rate of PWDs is that
they do not have the necessary
knowledge, skills, abilities, and
other characteristics (KSAOs) for
job performance. Typical em-
ployer attitudes about whether
PWDs have necessary KSAOs to
perform jobs are mixed—as we
found in this study—some employers be-
lieve PWDs do not have necessary skills
and can’t meet job requirements; others
view PWDs as punctual, hard-working, and
competent.
What KSAOs do employers seek in po-
tential employees and how do PWDs com-
pare with people without disabilities?
Millington and Reed (1997) identified a lim-
ited number of generic behavioral descrip-
tors used as selection factors across jobs (i.e.,
nonspecific KSAOs of desirable job candi-
dates). The KSAOs identified in their study
included: (a) job knowledge/production
skills, (b) socialization and emotional coping
skills, (c) trainability/task, (d) dependability,
and (e) motivation/satisfaction. Direct com-
parisons between PWDs and people without
While many
employers
expressed specific
concerns about
hiring PWDs, a
number expressed a
more generalized
fear of the unknown
in hiring PWDs.
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disabilities across these KSAOs are incom-
plete, but suggestive.
For example, PWDs are roughly equiva-
lent to people without disabilities in obtain-
ing high school diplomas and some college.
Data from the 2005 American Community
Survey (Rehabilitation Research and Training
Center on Disability Demographics and Sta-
tistics, 2005) shows that among working-age
PWDs, 34.5% had a high school diploma or
equivalent and 28% had some college in
contrast to people without disabilities, of
which 27.9% had a high school diploma and
30.5% had some college. However, a greater
percentage of people without disabilities had
a bachelor’s degree or more (30.1%) in com-
parison to PWDs (12.8%).
There are no data comparing PWDs and
people without disabilities on socialization
and emotional coping skills or trainability/
task flexibility, although employers express
concerns in both areas (Greenwood & John-
son, 1987). However, studies have found em-
ployers generally hold positive attitudes
when asked about the social skills and per-
sonality traits of PWDs (Lee & Newman,
1995).
Regarding dependability, the evidence is
quite clear that PWDs fare well. Studies show
that PWDs have equal or lower levels of ab-
senteeism than people without disabilities,
and that PWDs stay with jobs they occupy
(Junor, 1985; Pati, 1978; Yelin & Trupin,
2000). Employers surveyed in McFarlin,
Song, and Sonntag (1991) reported positive
attitudes toward turnover rates, absenteeism,
and performance of workers with disabilities.
Finally, there are no direct data comparing
the motivation/satisfaction of PWDs and
people without disabilities.
Human Resource Management DOI: 10.1002/hrm
Employer Concern Research Evidence
Job Qualifications/ PWDs are equivalent to nondisabled people in obtaining high school diplomas.
Performance Concerns However, a lower percentage of PWDs have bachelor’s degrees or higher levels
of education in contrast to people without disabilities.
Individuals with disabilities rate equal or better than people without disabilities
on the criterion of dependability—lower absenteeism and turnover.
Evidence shows no job performance and productivity differences between PWDs
and people without disabilities.
Costs Associated With Accommodations for PWDs may entail additional costs to employers, but
Hiring PWDs evidence to date suggests that these costs are usually minor and unlikely to tip
the benefit versus cost assessment away from hiring this source of labor.
There are no major differences between PWDs and employees without disabili-
ties on accidents, workplace injuries, and insurance costs.
While the fear of litigation may have some impact on the employment of PWDs,
evidence to date is indirect and inconclusive.
Reactions/Responses While employers may be reluctant to hire individuals with disabilities due to
of Others fears about negative reactions from coworkers, virtually no research supports
these claims.
While employers may be reluctant to hire individuals with disabilities because of
fears about negative customer reactions, no research supports these claims.
TABLE II Are Employer Concerns About Hiring People With Disabilities Justified?
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Overlooked and Underutilized: People with Disabilities Are an Untapped Human Resource 263
Nine studies conducted since 1987 all
have reported positive attitudes on the parts
of employers toward employees with disabil-
ities that came from vocational rehabilita-
tion or supported-employment programs
(Cooke, Pickett-Schenk, Banghart, Rosen-
heck, & Randolph, 2001; Coope, 1991;
Eigenbrood & Retish, 1988; Kregel & Unger,
1993; Nietupski, Hamre-Nietupski, Vander-
Hart, & Fishback, 1996; Petty & Fussell,
1997; Sandys, 1994; Shafer, Hill, Seyfarth, &
Wehman, 1987; Wilgosh & Mueller, 1989).
This trend could be indicative of employers
having much more confidence in hiring
PWDs who have institutional evidence of an
education that would teach the required
KSAOs.
What can be concluded from this depic-
tion of the KSAOs of PWDs? First, lower lev-
els of education may inhibit the employabil-
ity of individuals with disabilities for jobs
requiring a bachelor’s degree or higher. Em-
ployers will not hire individuals who do not
have the necessary KSAOs to perform the
job. Second, individuals with disabilities are
equal to or better than individuals without
disabilities on the criterion of dependability.
That is, PWDs have average or better absen-
teeism and average or lower turnover than
their nondisabled counterparts. Third, em-
ployers react favorably to demonstrated evi-
dence of employees with disabilities possess-
ing KSAOs, such as through a vocational or
supported-employment work programs. In
other words, certification may improve em-
ployability by reducing employer uncer-
tainty about the KSAOs of PWDs. Lastly, we
simply do not know enough about how
PWDs compare with people without disabil-
ities across the criteria of socialization and
emotional coping skills, trainability and task
flexibility, and motivation/satisfaction.
Do Employees With Disabilities Have
Lower Job Performance and
Productivity Than Employees
Without Disabilities?
Another explanation for the low employ-
ment rate of PWDs is that their job perform-
ance is lower and they are not as productive
as employees without disabilities. Evidence
comparing the productivity of PWDs to peo-
ple without disabilities is sparse, but typi-
cally shows that they have equal or higher
ratings on the job than people without dis-
abilities (Employer Assistance Referral Net-
work, n.d.; Koss-Feder, 1999; Schur, 2002).
Greenwood and Johnson (1987) reviewed
studies covering the period 1948 to 1981 and
concluded that results support “a continuing
record of quality performance.” Statistics
from the U.S. Office of Vocational Rehabili-
tation show that 91% of workers with dis-
abilities were rated either “aver-
age” or “better than average,” the
same as their counterparts with-
out disabilities (Stein, 2000). A
study by Lee and Newman (1995)
reported that 72% of employers
who had hired persons with dis-
abilities rated their job perform-
ance as average, above average, or
excellent. Employers surveyed in
McFarlin et al. (1991) demon-
strated positive attitudes toward
turnover rates, absenteeism, and
performance of workers with dis-
abilities. However, several studies
show that employers that previ-
ously had not employed persons
with disabilities had great con-
cerns regarding productivity,
proper job fit (i.e., having suitable
menial or repetitive tasks for
PWDs to perform), accidents or injuries on
the job, and worker’s compensation claims
(Blessing & Jamieson, 1999; Burnham, 1991;
Diksa & Rogers, 1996; Fuqua, Rathburn, &
Gade, 1984; Johnson, Greenwood, &
Schriner, 1988; Scheid, 1999, Weisenstein &
Koshman, 1991).
In summary, the evidence shows no sig-
nificant performance and productivity dif-
ferences between PWDs and people without
disabilities. However, there still exists the
perception among employers that these two
groups differ, especially among those em-
ployers who have not had experience with
PWDs. As knowledge work and information
technology become more ubiquitous in busi-
ness and industry, differences in productivity
Evidence comparing
the productivity of
PWDs to people
without disabilities
is sparse, but
typically shows that
they have equal or
higher ratings on
the job than people
without disabilities.
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between PWDs and people without disabili-
ties should lessen.
Do Employees With Disabilities
Entail Higher Costs Than Employees
Without Disabilities?
One early study (California Governor’s
Committee for Employment of the Handi-
capped, 1978) found that people with dis-
abilities tended to incur lower costs than the
average employee. However, as a result of
the passage of the Americans with Disabili-
ties Act, many employers believe
that costly accommodations and
other investments are necessary
in order to hire and maintain em-
ployees with disabilities and
equalize productivity. Mitchell,
Alliger, and Morfopoulos (1997)
found that the most common ac-
commodations include special
equipment (18%), scheduling of
breaks or flextime (16%), task
substitution (11%), office re-
design (10%), computer software
(10%), and increased access
(10%). While some accommoda-
tions may be costly, survey data
collected by the Job Accommoda-
tion Network (JAN) for the Presi-
dent’s Committee on Employ-
ment of People with Disabilities
between October 1992 and July
1999 shows that among employ-
ers making accommodations,
71% of accommodations cost
$500 or less, with 20% of those
costing nothing (Job Accommo-
dation Network, n.d.). Lengnick-Hall,
Gaunt, and Collison (2003) found that 38%
of human resource professionals indicated
their organizations spent nothing on rea-
sonable accommodations; 28% spent $1,000
or less; approximately 8% spent between
$1,000 and $5,000; and approximately 14%
spent more than $5,000. Other studies re-
port accommodations that entail no cost
number as high as 51–54% (Collignon,
1986; Lee & Newman, 1995). In addition,
the annual amortized costs of these accom-
modations over their useful lifetime (or the
tenure of PWDs’ employment) may be much
lower. Schartz, Hendricks, and Blanck (2006)
note that asking employers only about ac-
commodation costs may result in substan-
tial overestimates of disability-related ac-
commodation costs by $300–$400. This is
because employers typically report investing
between $300 and $400 in start-up costs for
new employees and retention costs for con-
tinuing employees.
Four studies found that employers were
very concerned about perceived costs in ac-
commodations for workers with disabilities
(Gilbride, Stensrud, Ehlers, Evans, & Peter-
son, 2000; Moore & Crimando, 1995;
Roessler & Sumner, 1997; Walters & Baker,
1996). Moreover, Hazer and Bedell (2000)
found that a job applicant’s request for ac-
commodation of an individual with a dis-
ability may have a negative effect; the more
disruptive the accommodation, the less suit-
able the person will be seen for hire. One in-
teresting viewpoint on the topic of accom-
modation costs was revealed in a focus group
reported by Pitt-Catsouphes and Butterworth
(1995):
Although several of the supervisors
stated that they thought that most of
the accommodations made at the work-
place had not been particularly expen-
sive, the financial burden often fell on
the specific department where the em-
ployee with a disability was assigned.
Given the firms’ emphases on cost-cut-
ting measures, many of the supervisors
felt that this cost-allocation system in-
troduced disincentives to the hiring of
individuals with disabilities. (p. 17)
In summary, accommodations for PWDs
may entail additional costs to employers,
but evidence to date suggests that these
costs are usually minor and unlikely to tip
the benefit versus cost assessment away
from hiring this source of labor. However,
research indicates that employers who are
unaware of this evidence still have concerns
regarding accommodation costs for employ-
ees with disabilities.
…accommodations
for PWDs may
entail additional
costs to employers,
but evidence to date
suggests that these
costs are usually
minor and unlikely
to tip the benefit
versus cost
assessment away
from hiring this
source of labor.
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Overlooked and Underutilized: People with Disabilities Are an Untapped Human Resource 265
Do Employees With Disabilities
Experience More Accidents Than
Employees Without Disabilities?
In addition to job accommodation costs, re-
searchers have studied differences between
PWDs and those without disabilities on
costs related to lost time due to work in-
juries, accidents, and insurance costs. In
general, findings show little or no differ-
ences between the groups on these cost cri-
teria (Oshkosh Area Workforce Develop-
ment Center, n.d.).
The Du Pont chemical company has
been a pioneer in studying employees with
disabilities (Freedman & Keller, 1981;
Nathanson, 1977; “Studies Related to,” n.d.).
In 1973, Du Pont studied 1,452 employees,
including those with such disabilities as
blindness, heart disease, vision impairment,
amputation, epilepsy, paralysis, hearing im-
pairment, and total deafness. For workers
with disabilities, they found no lost time due
to disabling injuries. In 1981, Du Pont stud-
ied 2,745 employees with such disabilities as
allergies, amputations, epilepsy, hearing dis-
orders, heart disease, mental impairments,
nonparalytic orthopedic problems, paralysis,
respiratory ailments, vision impairments,
and others. They found that 96% of these
employees were rated as average or above av-
erage on safety. In 1990, Du Pont studied 811
employees with disabilities in the areas of
motor skills, general bodily systems, sub-
stance addiction, neurological, hearing, vi-
sion, and others. In this study, they found
that 97% of these employees were rated as
average or above average on safety.
While available research on safety issues
for employees with disabilities is limited to
one company, three separate studies over a
period of approximately 20 years with rela-
tively large sample sizes suggests their find-
ings are not idiosyncratic.
Do Employers Experience More
Litigation Associated With
Terminating People With Disabilities?
Many employers feel that if they hire
PWDs, it will be difficult to terminate them
if their performance does not meet expec-
tations. That is, they fear that terminating
PWDs will increase their exposure to po-
tential employment discrimination law-
suits that will be both costly and generate
poor publicity (however, the same concern
typically is not expressed about lawsuits
and poor publicity resulting from failure to
hire PWDs).
From July 1992 to September 1997, the
Equal Employment Opportunity Commis-
sion (EEOC) received 90,803
charges under the Americans
With Disabilities Act (ADA) (Ace-
moglu & Angrist, 2001). Of those
charges filed directly with the
EEOC during 1992–1997, 29%
were related to failure to provide
accommodation, 9.4% were re-
lated to discrimination at the
hiring stage, and 62.9% were for
wrongful termination. Between
1997 and 2006, 235,465 ADA
charges were received by the
Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission (EEOC, n.d.). Only
about 19% of charges resulted in
merit resolutions (charges with
outcomes favorable to charging
parties and/or charges with mer-
itorious allegations).
Research suggests that em-
ployer concerns about litigation
regarding PWDs may be unwar-
ranted. Allbright (2001) and Lee
(2001) reviewed a total of 696
lawsuits charging violations of
the ADA. Of these, 96% of the de-
cisions were favorable for the employer, ei-
ther through summary judgment or through
merits of the case. Analysis of these cases
suggests that if employers assess whether an
individual is covered by law, and whether ac-
commodation is reasonable, courts most
often defer to the employer’s judgment, re-
sulting in minimal legal liability.
In summary, while the fear of litigation
may have some impact on the employment
of PWDs, evidence to date is indirect and in-
conclusive. However, employer concerns
may be more overstated than justified.
While available
research on safety
issues for employees
with disabilities is
limited to one
company, three
separate studies
over a period of
approximately 20
years with relatively
large sample sizes
suggests their
findings are not
idiosyncratic.
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Do Coworkers React Negatively to
Employees With Disabilities?
Coworker reactions present a possibility for
explaining why employers hire fewer work-
ers with disabilities. Employers may fear that
coworkers will react negatively to working
with PWDs and thereby lower productivity,
increase labor costs, and make their organi-
zations less profitable. Greenwood and John-
son (1987) concluded that while the evi-
dence for these concerns regarding PWDs is
mixed, there is “a continuing concern about
coworker relationships, particu-
larly when mental and emotional
disabilities are involved.”
What concerns might
coworkers have about working
with individuals with disabilities?
Stone and Colella (1996) propose
three possibilities. First, cowork-
ers may fear a negative effect on
work-related outcomes. For exam-
ple, individuals without disabili-
ties may fear an increase in their
workloads as a result of working
with an individual with a disabil-
ity. In conditions of task interde-
pendence, coworkers may fear a
loss of rewards if their own job
performance is dependent upon
an individual with a disability’s
job performance. Colella, DeNisi,
and Varma (1998) found some
support for this reaction in a lab-
oratory experiment.
Second, coworkers may fear a negative
effect on personal outcomes. Individuals
without disabilities may fear that some dis-
abilities are contagious (even when they are
not). People without disabilities also may
feel resentment regarding accommodations
and special treatment received by PWDs
(Colella, 2001).
Third, coworkers may fear a negative
effect on interpersonal outcomes. For exam-
ple, coworkers may feel awkwardness, dis-
comfort, ambivalence, and guilt about how
they should interact with PWDs. This reac-
tion may result in avoidance behavior and
exclusion of PWDs from formal and informal
workgroups. All of these coworker concerns
play an even more important role in organi-
zations structured around teams, especially
where team members hire their coworkers.
Some research has found that interaction
patterns between workers without disabili-
ties and workers with disabilities differ.
Lignugaris-Kraft, Salzberg, Rule, and Stow-
itschek (1988) found that employees with
disabilities received more task-related com-
mands and were less involved in joking and
teasing at work in contrast to employees
without disabilities who were asked for in-
formation during work more frequently.
Storey et al. (1991) found that employees
without disabilities engaged in more work-
related conversations than employees with
disabilities, and that their interactions were
with a significantly greater number of differ-
ent people. Workers with disabilities engaged
in work-related conversations mainly with
their employment specialist, receiving in-
struction and praise. However, Chadsey-
Rusch, Gonzalez, Tines, and Johnson (1989)
found that while employees with disabilities
were likely to be involved in job-related
interactions with coworkers, they were less
likely to be involved in non-job-related in-
teractions during work breaks.
In summary, while there are plausible ex-
planations for why coworkers may react neg-
atively to employees with disabilities, little
evidence suggests these reactions are, in fact,
commonplace.
Do Customers React Negatively to
Employees With Disabilities?
Employers may fear that customers without
disabilities may have negative reactions to
interactions with employees with disabili-
ties and transact less business with their or-
ganizations. Both explanations are plausi-
ble, and interestingly, both explanations
were offered in the past to explain employer
reluctance to hire other minority groups,
such as women, blacks, and Hispanics. How-
ever, this argument ignores the fact that
PWDs earn $175 billion in discretionary in-
come, which is almost two times the spend-
ing power of teens, and more than 17 times
…while there are
plausible
explanations for
why coworkers may
react negatively to
employees with
disabilities, little
evidence suggests
these reactions are,
in fact,
commonplace.
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Overlooked and Underutilized: People with Disabilities Are an Untapped Human Resource 267
the spending power of tweens (those age
8–12), two groups sought after by businesses
(U.S. Department of Justice, n.d.). By failing
to hire PWDs, organizations may be losing
revenue as well.
While no research expounds on this phe-
nomenon, one might expect customers to
have similar responses to those described
previously for coworkers. For work-related
outcomes, customers without disabilities
may fear that employees with disabilities do
not produce high-quality products or are
incapable of delivering the same level of
service as workers without disabilities. For
personal outcomes, customers without dis-
abilities may hold similar fears as coworkers
regarding the contagion of disabilities. For
interpersonal outcomes, customers without
disabilities may likewise fear feelings of awk-
wardness, discomfort, ambivalence, and
guilt about how they should interact with
PWDs. All of these explanations are plausi-
ble; however, no research has been con-
ducted in this area.
In summary, employers may choose not
to hire individuals with disabilities because
of fears about negative coworker and cus-
tomer reactions (that is from coworkers and
customers who do not have disabilities). Sev-
eral theoretical explanations have been pro-
posed that seem quite plausible. Unfortu-
nately, no research has been conducted to
test the validity of these propositions.
Recommendations for Improving
the Employment of People with
Disabilities
Participants in this study were asked to pro-
vide their suggestions for improving the em-
ployment of PWDs. Their responses may be
grouped into four categories that illustrate
the range of recommendations provided: (1)
educational; (2) policies, programs, and prac-
tices; (3) management; and (4) external (see
Table III).
Many of the study participants made rec-
ommendations that could be described as ed-
ucational in purpose. It seems the underly-
ing principle is that more PWDs will be hired
if managers and employees receive education
and experience interacting with them—a
principle that is supported by research (e.g.,
Popovich, et al., 2003). The following quote
illustrates this belief:
I think there needs to be more educa-
tion and knowledge about what people
can do . . . the more you interact with
people that are in that environment
and see what they can do, the less you
are going to refrain from hiring them.
Here are examples of educational recom-
mendations:
Identify success stories (i.e.,
companies that have inte-
grated PWDs into their work-
forces) and use them as mod-
els for other companies.
Publicize that PWDs are moti-
vated and dedicated workers.
Tell others what PWDs can
do.
Encourage organizations that
help PWDs get jobs to proac-
tively present to employers
the benefits of hiring them.
• Encourage more personal
contact with PWDs. Create
opportunities for employees
to have personal experiences
with PWDs.
Other recommendations seem
to focus more on implementing
specific policies, programs, and
practices. The following quote il-
lustrates this belief:
I think you would have to match them
up with the proper jobs. Again, there
are things that they may or may not be
able to do, other things that they may
be terrific at.
Here are examples of policy, program,
and practice recommendations:
Provide training for PWDs so they can
meet specific job requirements.
It seems the
underlying principle
is that more PWDs
will be hired if
managers and
employees receive
education and
experience
interacting with
them—a principle
that is supported by
research.
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Focus on the ability, capability, and ex-
perience of people to do the job—and do
not focus on disability.
Use internships and mentoring to inte-
grate people with disabilities into organi-
zations.
Ensure proper job fit for PWDs.
Many of the participants discussed the
necessity of top management taking an
active role in encouraging the hiring of
PWDs. The following quotes illustrate this
recommendation:
If you have the person at the top saying
we are making this a priority in this or-
ganization, there is a great deal higher
chance of success.
I think it is important but I think you
can have a policy but if you don’t live it
and breathe it and if it doesn’t come
from the top of the organization over
and over saying this is important—
then it is a policy that is in somebody’s
policy and procedure folder. Nothing
happens when top leadership is not
promoting it.
Finally, several participants recom-
mended government incentives to hire
PWDs. The following quotes illustrate this
belief:
I really think tax incentives are the one
thing that will get management’s atten-
tion. There has to be an economic rea-
Human Resource Management DOI: 10.1002/hrm
Type of Recommendation Recommendation
Educational Identify success stories (companies that have integrated people with disabilities
into their workforces) and use them as models for other companies.
Publicize that people with disabilities are motivated and dedicated workers. Tell
others what people with disabilities can do.
Encourage organizations that help people with disabilities get jobs to proactively
present the benefits of hiring them.
Encourage more personal contact with people with disabilities. Create opportu-
nities for employees to have personal experiences with people with disabilities.
Policies, programs, Provide training for people with disabilities so they are able to meet specific job
and practices requirements.
Focus on ability, capability, and experience of people to do the job and do not
focus on disability.
Use internships and mentoring to integrate people with disabilities into organi-
zations.
Ensure proper job fit for people with disabilities.
Management Obtain commitment from top management to hire people with disabilities.
Create a disability-friendly culture initiated from top management.
External Provide government awards and tax benefits to employers who hire people with
disabilities.
TABLE III Recommendations for Improving the Employment of People With Disabilities
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Overlooked and Underutilized: People with Disabilities Are an Untapped Human Resource 269
son for people in management to put
their heart in action—I mean they may
have a sincere desire to do it, to help
the disabled find employment, but
there has to be some incentive, some
reason to give that priority attention, in
my opinion.
But I would say just getting word out to
employers about tax breaks because I
know employers and owners are always
looking for tax breaks—anything that
saves money. They can give someone
with a disability a job and in return get
a little tax break—they are going to love
that.
While there are tax incentives that em-
ployers can receive for hiring PWDs, previ-
ous research has shown that a majority of
employers are unaware of them (Lengnick-
Hall et al., 2003).
Conclusions
This study contributes to our understanding
of why PWDs have difficulty obtaining em-
ployment by examining employer percep-
tions of PWDs as human resources. As we
have shown, employers have reservations
about the quality of human resources who
have disabilities. However, these reservations
are not borne out by research findings re-
garding PWDs in the workplace. Finally,
while employers have reservations about hir-
ing PWDs, they also have recommendations
regarding how to overcome these concerns.
Hiring and retaining PWDs is a win-win-
win solution (a win for PWDs, a win for em-
ployers, and a win for society) to a number of
problems (Lengnick-Hall, 2007). First, many
PWDs want to work but currently are unem-
ployed. They want to work for the same rea-
sons that nondisabled people want to work:
to obtain income, to support themselves and
their families, to get the satisfaction that can
be derived from a job and a career, and to
make contributions to organizations and so-
ciety. Second, employers need the best talent
available to compete effectively in a global
economy. Capitalizing on a source of good
employees could make the difference be-
tween success and failure in the marketplace.
And third, society is better off when more
PWDs are able to find productive work.
PWDs then pay taxes, have more income to
purchase goods and services, and reduce
their dependency on taxpayer-supported as-
sistance programs. One author estimates so-
ciety could save as much as $37 billion a year
in benefits payments alone if more PWDs
were employed (Riley, 2006).
However, employers can only do so much
to improve the employment of PWDs. Gov-
ernment programs should be reex-
amined to ensure that they do not
discourage PWDs from seeking
employment. Additionally, gov-
ernment programs that provide
tax incentives for hiring PWDs
should be assessed for effective-
ness and adjusted if needed. Fi-
nally, PWDs will have to take the
responsibility for making them-
selves employable and seeking out
appropriate employment. It is the
interaction of these three major
stakeholders—employers, govern-
ment, and PWDs—that ultimately
will determine the effectiveness of
efforts to improve the employ-
ment of PWDs. Until then, this
potential human resource—like
undiscovered oil in the ground—
will remain overlooked and un-
derutilized.
Acknowledgments
This research was part of the Employment
Research and Organizational Development Pro-
ject at the Cerebral Palsy Research Foundation of
Kansas, supported by grants H133B010901,
H235J0200008, H235J0300003, and H235J-
0400008 from the U.S. Department of Educa-
tion. We would like to thank the reviewers and
the guest editor for their helpful comments. We
would also like to thank Pat Jonas and Pat Ter-
rick for their tireless efforts in collecting the in-
terview data and Robert Hull for his manage-
ment of the research project. Thanks also to Kim
Clark for her research assistance.
This study
contributes to our
understanding of
why PWDs have
difficulty obtaining
employment by
examining employer
perceptions of
PWDs as human
resources.
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NOTE
1. Additional information about the sample is avail-
able on request from the authors.
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Human Resource Management DOI: 10.1002/hrm
MARK L. LENGNICK-HALL is a professor of management in the College of Business at
the University of Texas at San Antonio. He received his PhD in organizational behavior
and human resource management from Purdue University. His work has been published
in such journals as the
Academy of Management Review,
the
Academy of Management
Executive, Personnel Psychology, Human Resource Management Review,
and
Human
Resource Management.
He has coauthored four books, the most recent being
Hidden
Talent: How Leading Companies Hire, Retain, and Benefit from People with Disabilities
(Praeger, 2007). Dr. Lengnick-Hall was the recipient of the HR Educator of the Year award
presented by the HR Southwest Conference in 2003, and has received national recogni-
tion for his research in strategic human resource management. His current research in-
terests include the employment of people with disabilities, strategic human resource
management, human resource management in the knowledge economy, and the imple-
mentation of information technology in organizations.
PHILIP M. GAUNT is a professor of communication at the Elliott School of Communica-
tion at Wichita State University, as well as director of the University’s Interdisciplinary
Communication Research Institute, which he created in 1995. He received his PhD in
mass communication from Indiana University. His work has been published in such jour-
nals as
Journalism Quarterly,
the
Journal of Popular Culture, Media Culture and Society,
and
Public Relations Quarterly,
as well as in coauthored books such as
Hidden Talent:
How Leading Companies Hire, Retain, and Benefit from People with Disabilities
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French. Dr. Gaunt’s recent work has focused on disability issues and aging, and he was
instrumental in developing Wichita State University’s new Regional Institute on Aging,
which was launched in April 2007.
MUKTA KULKARNI is an assistant professor of management at the Indian Institute of
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ies from the University of Texas at San Antonio. Her work has been published in journals
such as the
Academy of Management Journal
and
Leadership Quarterly.
Her current re-
search interests include human resource management in the knowledge economy, and
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... It has been determined that managers have concerns about performance, organizational adaptation, attitude and behavior differences, accommodation costs, difficulties in the recruitment and selection process, dismissal and job security. In the study conducted by Lengnick-Hall et al. (2008), it was determined that most of the employers were not proactive about hiring disabled people and had stereotypical beliefs. Aracı & Koçak (2014) similarly conducted a study that reveals the perceptions of human resources managers of 5-star hotel businesses regarding the employment of disadvantaged individuals. ...
... In addition, it is aimed to determine the difficulties that disabled people faced during their efforts from the perspective of the managers and to make various suggestions that will increase the employment quality of them.When the results obtained within the scope of the research and the relevant literature are examined together, interesting results have emerged. Regarding the employment of people with disabilities,Lengnick-Hall et al. (2008) determined that the employers do not follow a proactive management style, and similarly,Aracı & Koçak (2014) stated that the biggest obstacles in employment of disabled people stem from the attitudes of the managers. As a result of this research, it is seen that the most important reason for managers to employ disabled people is not their own initiative, but a legal obligation. ...
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... Previous research described other concerns attributed to the employers' pessimistic perceptions of the abilities of the disabled individuals to perform successfully the required tasks and responsibilities of their jobs (Gold, Oire, Fabian, & Wewiorksi, 2012;Hernandez, McDonald, Divilbiss, Horin, Velcoff, & Donoso, 2008;Kaye, Jans, & Jones, 2011;Lengnick-Hall, Gaunt, & Kulkarni, 2008;Gröschl, 2013;Fiske, Cuddy, Glick, & Xu, 2002). They, specifically, fear a possible low flexibility of disabled workers to adapt to the continuous changes on the market (Kaye et al., 2011). ...
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This research examines the response of the business community to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) with specific focus on the employment of those with mental disabilities. The ADA is viewed as an important "rational myth" in that it represents both a legal and normative demand with which businesses are expected to comply. Yet employers' responses will be influenced by their attitudes toward persons with mental disabilities as well as their concern with legal sanction for discriminatory behaviors. A telephone survey was completed in a southern metropolitan area with a random sample of 117 businesses in order to access the knowledge employers have about the ADA (and its inclusion of those with mental disabilities), the compliance with the ADA, the employment practices, and the role played by stigma in the employment of individuals with mental disabilities. In terms of specific practices which indicated compliance with the ADA, a little over one-third of the companies which were surveyed by telephone had a Title 1 implementation plan, 15% had specific policies for hiring those with mental disabilities, and 37.6% had indeed hired such an individual. The role of coercive and normative rationales for compliance to the ADA was examined. It was found that receiving formal information about the ADA, threat of legal sanction, and previous employment of those with mental disabilities were all significant predictors of compliance with the ADA. Stigmatizing attitudes did not predict compliance, though employers did view those with mental disabilities with more discomfort than other types of employees, Copyright (C) 1999 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
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The Employer Attitude Questionnaire (EAQ) was created to assess employer attitudes toward hiring persons with psychiatric disability. A total of 373 employers representing various industries in the Boston metropolitan area were interviewed by telephone to assess their concerns in four major areas: symptomatology, work personality, work performance, and administrative concerns. The results were arranged according to 8 employer sectors derived from the Department of Employment and Training's 10 Standard Industry Classifications (SICs) for employers (Sum & Harrington, 1996). Results suggested that employers differ in their level of concern by industry type. The implications of these findings for vocational programs for persons with psychiatric disability are discussed.