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Friday, September 27, 2013

Employment and Hidden Disabilities

At The New York Times, Katherine Bouton writes of hidden disabilities:
Most companies are in compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act, and many seek out employees with disabilities. But there are subtler, gray areas of discrimination, usually unintentional. These can start with the application process.
Some big retail companies use prescreening tests with job applications that can exclude certain employees, said Jan Johnston-Tyler, founder and chief executive officer of EvoLibri, a company in Santa Clara, Calif., whose services include job placement for people with disabilities.
One of Ms. Johnston-Tyler’s clients, a 25-year-old with Asperger’s syndrome, applied for a position at Subway. While most of the online application was routine, the last step was a multiple choice questionnaire. One of the 60 questions was, “Sometimes I have a hard time figuring out how I am supposed to behave around others.”
Most of us would check off the “disagree” option, but as Ms. Johnston-Tyler pointed out, many people with Asperger’s “are generally honest to a fault.” She contacted Subway’s corporate parent and was told that her client could fill out a different application without social suitability questions.
The interview process can be another minefield, as the woman who wrote to me about the library position found. And once people with hidden disabilities start their jobs, they face more risks.
Ms. Johnston-Tyler sees a lot of inadvertent discrimination. She told me about a client with Asperger’s who was working for a community college as an accountant and was having a very difficult time interacting with others because of his poor social skills and boundaries. He was lonely and wanted social time with others, and got in trouble for asking too many questions.