Academic journal article Career Planning and Adult Development Journal

PREDICTORS OF DISABILITY HARASSMENT AND INTIMIDATION IN THE WORKPLACE: Empirical Analysis of EEOC ADA Project Data

Academic journal article Career Planning and Adult Development Journal

PREDICTORS OF DISABILITY HARASSMENT AND INTIMIDATION IN THE WORKPLACE: Empirical Analysis of EEOC ADA Project Data

Article excerpt

Abstract

Unwelcome bothering, tormenting, troubling, ridiculing or coercing a person because of a disability constitutes disability harassment (if in a non-work setting) and intimidation (if in a work-setting). In an effort to document the nature and scope of this phenomenon, we used a data mining approach to examine 21,588 resolved allegations of harassment and intimidation from a general disability population. The overall rate of Merit Resolution for harassment and intimidation combined was 19 per cent, which is below the average rate of 22 per cent for all 23 discrimination issues. However, when computed separately, the rate for intimidation is 24 per cent, whereas, harassment is 19 per cent. This suggests that harassment is a more difficult allegation to substantiate. These data confirm that disability harassment and intimidation are complex matters with a variety of influences. Primary among these is the type of allegation (intimidation vs. harassment), geographic regions, race or ethnicity of the charging party, and types of industries involved. Implications for rehabilitation and career counseling are discussed.

Work is considered therapeutic and essential for both the physiological survival and psychological well-being of people in modern societies (Chan et al., 1997; Rubin & Roessler, 2000). Recognizing the importance of work, vocational rehabilitation (VR) professionals have consistently advocated for work as a fundamental human right of people with disabilities (Rubin & Roessler, 2000; Spitznagel, 2002; Wright, 1980). Helping people with disabilities prepare for, obtain, and retain employment has been a central mission of the state-federal rehabilitation services program. Expanding educational and employment opportunities for people with disabilities is also a major emphasis of the current National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) LongRange Plan. Considerable research efforts have been expended to study effective ways to help people with disabilities prepare for and obtain employment (Rubin & Roessler, 2000). However, a paucity of research has been conducted to study factors affecting job retention of persons with disabilities.

Since the effective date of the Employment Provisions (Title I) of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), (ADA. PL 101-336), the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has found that harassment and intimidation constitute 9.2 per cent of complaints and rank third in the total number of allegations among 23 distinct discrimination issues, exceeded only by discharge and reasonable accommodation (McMahon, Edwards, Rumrill & Hursh, 2005). In addition, disability related allegations are now the fourth most commonly filed harassment complaints among all adult workers, following charges based on gender, race, and national origin (Abelson, 2001). At these levels, intimidation and harassment constitute a significant vocational and psychosocial problem for persons with disabilities. Importantly, the impact of workplace disability harassment on people with disabilities remains a major barrier to their job retention as well as to any subsequent job seeking endeavors (Holzbauer, 2002; 2004; Holzbauer & Berven, 1996).

Clearly, harassment of people with disabilities in the workplace is a form of discrimination and several court precedents have determined that harassment and intimidation is actionable under the ADA Title I (Holzbauer, 2002). For example, in 2001, an automobile worker experienced a non-work related injury to his back, and then returned under medical restrictions to the factory at which he worked. While performing limited duties, he was berated and harassed by supervisors and coworkers on a regular basis. Supervisors required him to perform tasks that exceeded his medical restrictions resulting in aggravation of his back injury. The Federal Court of Appeals found that the plaintiff was subjected to a hostile work environment, and $204,000 was awarded in compensatory damages (Fox v. …

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