Awareness of autism and its symptoms has grown over the past decade. However, many people still face autism discrimination in the workplace.
Autism, also called Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), can mean that a person has social awkwardness, difficulty communicating, or having difficulty understanding people’s emotions and viewpoints, to name a few symptoms.
By law, employers in the United States cannot discriminate against an individual for having a disability. Under this law, employers cannot refuse to hire qualified, capable applicants because they have autism.
Even so, people with autism can still find it difficult to find their way around the workplace. Employers need to understand how to treat employees with autism and how to meet them and their needs.
Read on to learn more about autism discrimination in the workplace, including the rights of autistic people, some examples of appropriate adjustments that employees can make, and some tips for dealing with autism discrimination in the workplace.
According to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), discrimination means treating someone differently or less favorably for a reason, such as a disability.
Discrimination can take place anywhere, be it in school, in public areas or in the workplace. The EEOC protects against discrimination, including discrimination against autism in the workplace.
ASD is a developmental state that can affect a person’s communication, behavior, and interactions with others. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), doctors in the United States diagnose about 1 in 54 children with ASD. ASD occurs more than four times more often in boys than in girls.
Although around 31% of people with ASD have intellectual disabilities, around 46% have average or above average intelligence with an IQ above 85. Autistic people can have a range of strengths and skills, such as reasoning and memorizing and learning new information fast.
Working with someone with autism can be both an enriching and beneficial experience for employers, provided they address and overcome potential challenges and make the proper adjustment necessary for autistic people to work comfortably.
ASD is a lifelong condition that affects approximately 2.21% of adults in the United States from ethnic, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups. People with ASD can face stigma and discrimination in the workplace because their impaired social skills influence how others see them.
People with ASD generally have high levels of unemployment or underemployment. This could be due to several problems, including employers reacting negatively to the behavioral, social, and communication characteristics common in ASD patients. In a 2012 review of the studies, the authors found that after leaving school, only 6% of people with ASD had competitive jobs.
In a 2014 review, the authors found an employment rate of 18% among autistic adults in a UK where a study was taking place, even though it was a slightly older study. However, a study conducted in Canada showed that 56% of people with ASD found employment.
It is difficult to find accurate statistics on the number of autistic people who have faced discrimination in the workplace because they may not be adequately reported.
A 2008 study analyzed complaints submitted to the EEOC by autistic individuals from 1992 to 2003. The researchers found only 98 of 328,738 complaints, or 0.03%. This low number could be due to individuals not knowing their rights or feeling unable to meet them.
ASA is a complex disease with various effects. It can affect a person’s social interaction, communication, and behavior. However, the effects of this lifelong condition vary significantly from person to person, from mild to severe.
The effects of ASA fall into two categories.
- Social interaction and communication problems: People may have difficulty with everyday conversations and cannot share emotions. You may find it difficult to respond to typical social cues like eye contact and facial expressions, and have difficulty establishing and understanding relationships with others.
- Behavior problems: People with ASD can exhibit restricted or repetitive behavior patterns. For example, hand flapping, using strange language patterns, needing a predictable routine, focusing intensely on certain activities, and experiencing overstimulation.
Learn more about autism in adults here.
Autistic people can face discrimination in the workplace because of their behavior, which people perceive as unusual. Discrimination can have a negative impact on their self-esteem, quality of life and physical health. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can even occur.
The Americans with Disability Act (ADA) is a US federal law that provides civil rights protection for people with disabilities. ADA classifies autism as a disability.
The ADA guarantees autistic people equal job opportunities, government services, access to education, transportation, and more.
If a company has 15 or more employees, the ADA states that it must not discriminate against autistic people. This discriminatory decision applies to every aspect of employment, from application to recruitment to training and beyond.
According to ADA guidelines, employers must make appropriate adjustments to autistic employees. This means employers must support autistic people by making changes in the work environment that allow autistic people to enjoy equal job opportunities. For example, by providing the equipment and resources they need to do their jobs effectively. However, if the accommodations are complex and costly, staff do not need to provide them.
The other law that prevents discrimination against people with autism is Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This law prevents discrimination from government contractors or subcontractors with contracts over $ 10,000.
When an employer makes reasonable adjustments for people with ASD, it enables them to fully participate in their work. These reasonable adjustments will depend on the person and the challenges they are facing.
Here are some examples of useful adjustments:
- A person can take short breaks throughout the day when they lose focus or become distracted. To take this into account, the employer could increase core working hours.
- Delivering one task at a time rather than expecting individuals to multitask.
- Provides a quiet place to work or a “Do Not Disturb” sign that individuals can use when they require intense focus.
- Minimizing noise, light, and visual disturbance by using desk partitions, dim lighting, and providing noise-canceling headphones.
- Allow individuals to work from home or change their work hours to quiet times to reduce distraction and stress.
- Provide clear and specific information and instructions on how to get work done to avoid confusion or confusion. Give written instructions instead of verbal instructions. Consider keeping the instruction manual near equipment such as a photocopier, printer, or other device.
- Training of work colleagues about the challenges of ASD and how they can help individuals to communicate and to find their way around their job.
The law prevents employers, schools, colleges, or individuals from discriminating against someone because of autism. Autistic people must have equal employment opportunities, government services, transportation, public housing, and commercial facilities.
If an autistic person is discriminated against, there are steps they can take to address the situation. These measures vary depending on the type of discrimination, but can include:
- Talk to the employer or the data subject as they may not realize that they are discriminating against the autistic person
- Filing a complaint about workplace discrimination with the EEOC or the state agency for fair employment practices (if individuals believe they have experienced a violation of rights they may have a deadline that can be up to 180 days depending on the state)
- contact an attorney and inquire about filing a lawsuit
Various social services and other resources can help people with ASD who have experienced discrimination from autism in the workplace. These can include:
- local health authorities and healthcare professionals
- Autism advocacy groups like the Autism Society also have members who can help people around them
- the American Civil Liberties Union, which can help people tackle discrimination in their workplace
- the EEOC, which can help people file a lawsuit against an employer
Autistic people can be discriminated against in the workplace because of their behavior and communication difficulties.
However, legally speaking, employers in the United States cannot discriminate against people because they have a disability. The workplace can be challenging for people with autism, and employers need to make appropriate adjustments to give autistic people equal opportunities to work.
Autism must not be a barrier to employment. Every autistic person has the right to support them in a fair workplace without discrimination.
While facing discrimination can be challenging for autistic people, they shouldn’t have to stand up for it. There are a number of organizations they can turn to for advice and assistance.