When researchers at two universities sent out hundreds of fake cover letters to employers, they discovered something distressing: Employers are still systematically discriminating against disabled job applicants.
After sending out more than 6,000 fake resumes and cover letters, researchers from Rutgers University and Syracuse University found that employers showed less interest in candidates who said they have a disability. The employers in the study were 26% less likely to express interest in cover letters that mentioned a disability.
According to the New York Times reporter Noam Scheiber, data from the study can help explain why only 34% of working-aged disabled adults are employed as of 2013, as compared to 74% of those without disabilities. In the resumes, which were sent out for vacant accounting positions, the same resume was attached to a cover letter for a candidate with no disability, another for a candidate with a spinal injury, and another for a candidate with Asperger’s syndrome.
Interestingly, the study found that small workplaces with less than 15 employees–to which the Americans With Disabilities Act does not apply–showed considerably less interest in following up with disabled job candidates than did large corporations or companies receiving government contracts. At those companies, the authors said, virtually no evidence of discrimination against disabled job candidates showed up.
Previous research has shown that employers are less likely to look at resumes with hard-to-pronounce names or names that are perceived to be African-American. Monster, a popular career site, tells candidates that “If your resume contains personal information unrelated to your job target–your race, nationality, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, etc.–you might fall victim to discrimination, even if you’re qualified for the position.”