New York Times Reports on Discrimination Exposed Through Fake Cover Letters

In a shocking piece of research by students at Rutgers and Syracuse University, employers were shown to discriminate against potential candidates who disclosed a disability with alarming frequency. Students aiming to quantify the discrimination of disabled job applicants created a study whereby thousands of accounting jobs across New York City were applied to by fictitious job applicants with equal job skills. The students created the cover letters for each of these candidates – some of which disclosed a disability – and found that employers were a whopping “26 percent less likely to express interest in” the disabled candidates. Due to the fact that the study looked only at the field of Accounting, cross industry conclusions cannot be drawn. However, it does help to shed some light on why such a large number of disabled, yet competent, adults struggle with persistent unemployment. This is the first study of its kind that isolated the disability as the sole difference between candidates and therefore was able to accurately report the prevalence of this particular form of workplace discrimination, even if only for the field of accounting. Previous studies have been done using this same strategy to quantify the prevalence of discrimination based on age, race and gender. For the study, researchers created two unique resumes. One resume set was for an exceptionally qualified candidate with six years of experience and the other set was for a recent college graduate (approx. a year out of college). They drafted three cover letter variations. One cover letter set disclosed no disability. One set disclosed a spinal cord injury as the disability and the last set disclosed Asperger’s Syndrome as the stated disability. What they learned from this was surprising. Contrary to what one might assume, employers were far more likely to pass over experienced applicants with a stated disability than they were to pass over recent college graduates with a disability. They did find that there was no noticeable difference between the applicants which disclosed having Asperger’s Syndrome than those who disclosed having a spinal cord injury. Both were passed over at a near equal rate. When asked whether they were surprised by the results, the students reported that they were surprised not by the existence of disability discrimination but by the prevalence. Lisa Schur, a Rutgers Political Scientist explained that “I don’t think we were astounded by the fact that there were fewer expressions of interest, but I don’t think we were expecting it be as large.” New York City employment attorneys see this daily, yet are still surprised and dismayed by the persistence of this discriminatory practice. If you believe you have been wrongfully discriminated against on the basis of your disability, contact an Arce Law Group employment lawyer today to review your case. Our attorneys can help you file a lawsuit in a court of law or with file a charge with Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

By Bryan Arcé | Published December 1, 2015

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