Disability discrimination complaints now top race discrimination

Only 13% of workplaces have disability-specific inclusion initiatives, according to the Society for Human Resource Management in D.C. (Getty Images/iStockphoto/spukkato)

For the first time ever, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission claims of disability discrimination topped race discrimination claims in 2019. And U.S. companies are doing a poor job of addressing disability inclusion, according to a group of human resources professionals.

Only 13% of workplaces have disability-specific inclusion initiatives, according to the Society for Human Resource Management in D.C. Half of HR professionals have never gone through any kind of disability inclusion training, the group says.

“There are employers who may not be aware of their responsibility to comply with federal and state laws regarding disabilities. Some employers may be focusing their training efforts on other issues, like sexual harassment, especially in light of the #MeToo movement, and the increase in state laws which mandate such training,” SHRM’s Amber Clayton told WTOP.

“Disability training is not required under federal law, though it is recommended, so that could be another reason. And there could be situations where employers have never experienced hiring or employing someone with a disability, so they may not think the training is necessary,” she said.

Workers with disabilities are twice as likely to be unemployed, according to the group.

The SHRM Foundation has launched a new certificate program to help HR and hiring managers obtain the skills to hire, retain and advance workers with disabilities.

What should disability inclusion training include?

“Describing what it means to provide reasonable accommodations, and how to work alongside employees with disabilities,” Clayton said. “For example, learning how individuals with disabilities communicate, how they perform certain functions, and avoiding language or actions that may be perceived as offensive to someone who has a disability.”

More than three-quarters of HR professionals wrongly define “disability” as something that is primarily physical, overlooking the needs of many potential or existing employees with mental disabilities.

Employers can register online for the free educational certificate program, developed by the SHRM Foundation.

Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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