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Companies firing disabled workers in record numbers

July 15, 2003 -- A story in yesterday's Wall Street Journal notes that rising health-insurance costs are pushing many companies to fire disabled workers and terminate their coverage. A survey of 723 companies in 2003 by Mercer Human Resource Consulting found that 27 percent dismiss workers as soon as they go on long-term disability. Almost a fourth of the companies surveyed were found to fire workers after a set period on long-term disability, usually six to 12 months. Only 15 percent maintain benefits until disabled workers turn 65, which not long ago was general practice, says the Journal.

The article is the sixth in the Journal's series "Left Behind: Casualties of a Changing Job Market."

"According to the Journal, employees with disabilities have become 'an increasingly common casualty of the drive to cut costs' as health insurance expenses and the number of disabled employees increase and as many companies face bankruptcies and takeovers," reports the Kaiser Network website.

The Journal article reports on the lawsuit filed last week in Boston by Elizabeth Williams, a former Polaroid employee with lupus who was terminated last July. Over 9 out of 10 times, employers won when their employees filed disability discrimination lawsuits against them. Those are the findings in a new report in the current issue of the American Bar Association's Mental & Physical Disability Law Reporter. Some employees do win their cases, however. The Wisconsin Supreme Court on Friday ruled in favor of a woman who claimed her former employer discriminated against her by failing to accommodate her disability.

Read "Time-off and disability programs cost 15% of payroll" (Feb., 2003 study by Mercer Human Resources Consulting)


Additional resources and studies on the employment of persons with disabilities can be found at the Law, Health Policy, and Disability Center, based at the University of Iowa College of Law. The Center focuses on public policy and its impact on persons with disabilities, with an emphasis on employment, self-determination and self-sufficiency.

Peter David Blanck directs the Law, Health Policy and Disability Center at the University of Iowa. Reach him at (319) 335-9043 or by email at





Read the EEOC's Primer for Small Business on complying with the employment provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act




Expert sources


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