Rumrill leads national investigation into workplace discrimination experiences of Americans with disabilities
Dr. Phillip Rumrillâ€™s research interests include issues facing students with disabilities in higher education, assistive technology and reasonable accommodations, chronic illness, the career development implications of disability, workplace discrimination, program evaluation, research design and methodology, and self-advocacy strategies for people with disabilities.
Research Project: National investigation into workplace discrimination experiences of Americans with disabilities
Discrimination is widely cited as one of the most prominent reasons for the woeful 30 percent labor force participation rate among working-age Americans with disabilities, yet, prior to this project, no one had studied this phenomenon on a national scale using population-level data.
In 2003, Dr. Phillip Rumrill and Dr. Brian McMahon of Virginia Commonwealth University obtained access to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) database regarding the employment provisions (Title I) of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This includes every allegation filed with EEOC since 1992.
With funding from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (U.S. Department of Education) and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, they considered variables related to the nature or type of the discrimination that was alleged by the charging party (i.e., the person with a disability), characteristics of the charging party, characteristics of the employer against whom the complaint was leveled, and the outcome or resolution of the EEOC's investigatory process. They considered the charging party's impairment type, age, gender, and race/ethnicity; the employer's size, industry and geographic location; and whether the allegation was resolved in favor of the charging party or the employer.
Their research has been a collaboration with 62 different researchers from around the U.S. on their 50 published studies to date, including nine Kent State University faculty members and seven Kent State graduate students. Eight successful doctoral dissertations from five different colleges and universities (including one from Kent State) have resulted from this project.
Over the last seven years they have faced some challenges, including the use of population-level statistics, the limited information they have on each allegation, consistency in reporting data across EEOC field offices, and the fact that much of the discrimination that occurs in the workplace goes unreported and consequently does not appear in this dataset.
Their research has found that:
Disability type is the most sensitive differential indicator of the employment discrimination experiences of people with disabilities. For example, people who are blind have a very different discrimination profile than those with hearing loss or chronic illnesses. People with HIV/AIDS have different profiles than those with cancer. There are also gender and racial differences in discrimination experiences irrespective of disability type, probably due to double disadvantages brought on by gender and/or race.
The vast majority of alleged discrimination is perpetrated against current employees. Only five percent of ADA Title I allegations involve the hiring process.
Fifty-three percent of all Title I allegations involve unlawful discharge (35 percent) or failure to provide reasonable accommodations (18 percent).
Eighty percent of ADA Title I allegations result in no finding of discrimination, that is, they favor the employer. Only 20 percent of allegations are upheld as discriminatory actions in the EEOC's investigatory process.
Drs. Rumrillâ€™s and McMahonâ€™s findings are being used to shape rehabilitation counseling practice in both direct client services and employer consultation efforts to reduce the incidence and impact of workplace discrimination. They have published 50 refereed journal articles in various fields and conducted more than 100 presentations at state, regional, national and international conferences to disseminate the findings. Findings from the project have also been cited in Congressional hearings pursuant to the 2009 Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act, which redoubled the federal commitment to civil rights protections in the workplace and other community settings for people with disabilities nationwide.