Uncovering the Realities Surrounding Unequal Pay

Employees with disabilities find meaningful work across Tennessee. Despite the recent progress towards decreasing barriers to employment for people with disabilities, some employees are still not taking home the same pay checks as their peers. Solving this disparity starts with uncovering the facts surrounding the unequal wage gap. 

Fact – Not All employees with disabilities are paid the same as their coworkers. 
Many people are surprised to learn that employees with disabilities are still not paid the same amount as their coworkers. Although the ADA prohibits compensation discrimination on the basis of disability, there is no requirement that jobs must be substantially equal. 

For example:
•    A cash registrar with a disability has three years of experience. He is good with customers and has also worked on his management skills during his time on the job, and wishes to advance to a cashier manager. 
•    A cash registrar without a disability has two years of experience. While also good at his job, he has not taken the time to sharpen his management skills. He wishes to advance to a cashier manager. 

A general manager can legally promote the employee without a disability over the employee with a disability, even though the employee with a disability is more qualified. Without the promotion, the cashier with a disability misses out on increased pay and a promotion. This is often how the wage gap is expanded. In Tennessee, people with disabilities make 72% of what people without disabilities make

Fact – It’s not okay to pay employees with disabilities less than other employees at the same job level because they aren’t capable of performing their duties as efficiently as their coworkers. 
A common misconception about employees with disabilities, especially intellectual disabilities, is that they cannot perform more complex job duties or perform their current duties as efficiently as their coworkers. This mindset prevents employees from the opportunity to take on more responsibility and therefore higher pay. In fact, employers have reported satisfaction with their employees who have disabilities. They have also seen increased employee production and customer satisfaction levels. Most employees with disabilities are loyal, punctual and take pride in their work.

Fact – Employees with disabilities need more supervision, which ends up costing the company more due to lost production time. 
Individuals with disabilities have adjusted to their disability in most cases; their disability does not affect their ability to work without supervision. In fact, 82% of managers found employees with disabilities no more difficult to supervise than employees without disabilities. 

While more training may be needed up front, good supervision leads to a higher return on investment. Good training and supervision allows an employee to feel comfortable asking questions, experience independence in the workplace and excel at their duties. An investment in good supervision is an investment in the company. 

Employees with and without disabilities need opportunities to advance and explore their skill sets at work. Let’s ensure all employees are paid equally so that they are able to achieve financial independence for themselves and for their families.