Recruiting

Discrimination Against Cancer Survivors

Yesterday’s Advisor explored a recent survey stating that cancer survivors were more likely to be afraid to disclose their situation and that interviewers were less likely to call them back. Today, the conclusion of that survey.

Conclusions on Health Conditions, Diversity, and Discrimination

In a new study from Rice University and Penn State, researchers make clear that no hiring laws were broken, but they found evidence of discrimination. “Despite the fact that cancer survivors are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act, we did see this difference in callbacks between them and the general public, as well as the negative interpersonal treatment they received,” said lead researcher Larry Martinez, PhD, assistant professor of hospitality management at Penn State.

Researchers concluded that while diversity efforts have generally increased over the last decade, health characteristics are often not included in diversity programs.

For example, the online survey of managers and interviewers indicated that these hiring decision makers rated workers with a history of cancer as higher in “warmth” than in “competency.”


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Martinez adds that, “Basically, people are more likely to discriminate in very subtle, interpersonal ways. There’s less eye contact. There are shorter interaction times when speaking with managers. There are more negative interpersonal behaviors from managers, like frowning, brow furrowing, and less smiling—fewer cues that communicate to applicants that they are interested in hiring them for the job.

“Managers and employees should be mindful of the fact that although societal attitudes toward cancer survivors are generally quite positive, with people often viewing them as champions who have successfully overcome a traumatic experience, we nonetheless might perceive them as being less desirable employees simply because of their history with cancer.”

Next steps in this area could include training managers to be mindful of subtle biases they might have toward people with past and chronic health conditions, according to Martinez and co-author Michelle R. Hebl, PhD, of Rice University.

“We could train applicants who might be prone to experiencing discrimination how to present themselves in interviews in ways to reduce possible negativity they might experience,” Martinez said.

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