October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month in California and around the country. Unfortunately, this type of workplace discrimination has been on the rise in the past several years, and it affects not just disabled employees but people with disabilities who are applying for jobs.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has reported that in 2015 there were nearly 27,000 disability discrimination claims filed with the agency. This number represented an increase of more than 12,000 since 2005. In 201, a major home improvement chain paid nearly $9 million to settle a disability lawsuit brought by the agency on behalf of thousands of workers who the company had terminated because of their disabilities.
The employment figures for disabled people are grim as well. Bureau of Labor Statistics figures reveal that in 2015 only 17.5 percent of disabled Americans of working age were employed, compared to 65 percent of those without a disability. This could be due to several factors. One could be that many jobs require people to perform certain tasks that disabled workers are not able to, even if they are provided with accommodations.
There could be a variety of explanations for the dramatic increase in claims filings as well. One could be a change in laws and regulations, and another could be that disabled people are less reluctant to pursue their employee rights. Regardless of the reasons, employers should realize that this form of discrimination is both illegal and can be costly to defend. Disabled employees should also realize that they have valid rights, and they may want to meet with an attorney to learn more about them.