The Cornell Just-in-Time Toolkit for Managers

Tips, checklists, and resources to help managers lead a disability inclusive workforce.

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Disability in the workplace: What’s true; what’s not

Here are some facts about disability in the workplace.

Disability inclusiveness:  It’s about leverage, not lawsuits! 

Disability inclusiveness is increasingly becoming a source of competitive advantage for a variety of reasons: Being able to get talent, being able to retain talent, maintaining productivity, sending a message to customers, becoming an employer of choice. 

Employees with disabilities:  Like other employees.

Research tells us that employees with disabilities are much like any other employee. They have no higher rates of workplace accidents, take the same amount of the manager’s time and do not have more off-work time.

Myth.  Employees with disabilities can’t get negative performance feedback or be terminated.

Fact.  Employees with disabilities must meet the same performance standards as others.

Employees with disabilities do not need to be treated delicately or protected from bad news.  Performance problems of employees with disabilities can be treated the same way you would treat these problems with any other employee. This includes the option of termination when warranted.

Myth.  Employer’s health insurance rates are set by the percentage of employees with disabilities they have in their workforce.

Fact.  Health insurance rates are not set according to the number of individuals with disabilities in the workforce.   

Let’s re-consider what “healthy” means. Many people think disability automatically means being “unhealthy.” Individuals with disabilities come in all shapes, sizes, and levels of fitness. A disability inclusive workforce does not mean an unhealthy or unwell workforce. And, hence, health insurance rates cannot be determined by the number of individuals with disabilities hired into your workforce.   

Myth.  Employees with psychiatric disabilities are likely to be violent in the workplace.

Fact.  Employees with psychiatric disabilities are no more likely than others to commit acts of workplace violence.   

Despite the common stereotypes, individuals with psychiatric disabilities generally do not actually commit more acts of workplace violence than others.   

Myth.  Managers must employ individuals with disabilities even if they could be a danger to others.

Fact.  The ADA does not force managers to employ people when they could be a danger others.  

Legitimate safety issues must always be addressed. When any employee poses a clear and imminent danger or “direct threat” to others, managers can and should take action to alleviate that threat. The ADA does not prevent managers from dealing with legitimate safety concerns in the workplace.

Myth.  Customers are uncomfortable when interacting with employees with disabilities.

Fact.  92% of customer’s report that they prefer to buy from companies that employ individuals with disabilities.   

Having a disability inclusive workforce sends an important message to customers about what Cornell stands for. Research tells us that this message impacts customers’ buying decisions and Cornell’s ability to attract talent (Siperstein, 2005, Cone Cause Survey, 2008).