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Disabled Workers Often Face Abuse: Study

WEDNESDAY, March 6 (HealthDay News) -- Disabled people are twice as likely to be attacked at work as other employees, and they also are more likely to be insulted, ridiculed and intimidated on the job, a new study finds.

British researchers interviewed nearly 4,000 employees and found that the 284 participants with a disability or long-term illness had higher rates of 21 types of ill treatment than other workers.

This abuse often came from co-workers and managers, and included being given impossible deadlines and being ignored, gossiped about or teased, according to the study, which was published March 5 in the journal Work, Employment and Society.

Among the people with disabilities or long-term illnesses:

  • More than 10 percent had suffered physical violence at work versus less than 5 percent of other employees.
  • More than 7 percent had been injured at work as a result of aggression, compared with less than 4 percent of other employees.
  • More than 12 percent had been humiliated or ridiculed on the job, compared with about 7 percent of other employees.
  • About 24 percent had been insulted at work, compared with about 14 percent of other employees.
  • Nearly 35 percent had been shouted at, compared with about 23 percent of other employees.

Those with a psychological or learning disability usually suffered more abuse than those with physical disabilities or long-term physical-health problems. Among those with a psychological or learning disability, about 21 percent had suffered physical violence, about 44 percent had been insulted and nearly 57 percent had been shouted at.

The analysis of data from the British Workplace Behavior Survey found that the workers with disabilities or long-term illnesses said managers were responsible for 45 percent of the more serious incidents of ill treatment, customers or clients for 28 percent, and colleagues for 18 percent.

"Up to now, researchers have generally assumed that ill treatment in the workplace was causing disabilities and health problems," lead researcher Ralph Fevre, a professor in the School of Social Sciences at Cardiff University in Wales, said in a journal news release. "Our work suggests ill treatment happens to employees who already have disabilities or health problems."

"Any one of these forms of ill treatment could have an adverse effect on their productivity and, in turn, shore up assumptions about the lack of productive worth of people with disabilities," the researchers wrote. "The efforts employees with disabilities make to escape ill treatment may also exacerbate their marginalization in less productive and less well-paid jobs, or even lead to their withdrawal from the labor market altogether."

More information

The U.S. Office of Disability Employment Policy provides advice on how disabled people can find and excel in a job.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Work, Employment and Society, news release, March 5, 2013

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