MECHANISMS OF DISABILITY DISCRIMINATION IN LARGE BUREAUCRATIC ORGANIZATIONS: Ascriptive Inequalities in the Workplace

Authors


*Pamela M. Robert, Department of Sociology, Roosevelt University, 430 Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL 60605; e-mail: probert@roosevelt.edu

Abstract

Studies of workplace discrimination have typically focused on empirically unobservable motives to explain ascriptive inequalities associated with class, gender, and race. Such studies usually have overlooked disability as an ascriptive status, and have offered little systematic research on the central question of this study: How, through what mechanisms, does disability discrimination operate in large, bureaucratic organizations? The in-depth personal interviews upon which this study is based reveal that interpersonal mechanisms of discrimination manifest as blatant and subtle acts of marginalization, fictionalization, and harassment. However, such interpersonal acts of discrimination would likely be less frequent or less consequential if not for the organizational mechanisms of tolerance and encouragement. The authors conclude that one of the central promises of the Americans with Disabilities Act, full inclusion and participation of people with disabilities in the workplace, is unlikely to be realized without renewed pressure for legislation that explicitly specifies the nature and extent of work organizations’ responsibilities for creating a nonhostile environment and the consequences of not doing so.

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