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Tell Me Your Story: How Recruitment Practices Implementing Affirmative Action Laws May Undermine the Laws’ Goals

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  25 March 2020


Scholars pointed out that antidiscrimination laws do not fully undermine workplace discrimination and that affirmative action policies mostly benefit overqualified or advantaged individuals within minorities. To elucidate this paradox, this case study analyzes how some companies adopted specific selection and assessment processes for job seekers after the reinforcement of a quota for workers with disabilities in France. I observed the creation of alternative recruitment channels, the hiring of disability experts for recruitment, the refusal of resume sorting as a prescreening tool, and an emphasis on face-to-face interviews. While these changes circumvented practices that could have excluded people with disabilities (resume screening as a preselection tool, inaccessible venues for recruitment), they changed these practices only in limited spaces within the organizations. Additionally, while they did help more people get hired, they also compelled more personal disclosure that led to a more emotional assessment of job seekers and enabled “refined statistical discrimination” within pools of job seekers with disabilities. This research therefore reveals recruitment practices that may increase the number of individuals with disabilities hired but that, at the same time, may facilitate overselectivity and trigger significant risks associated with emotional recruitment of individuals with disabilities.

© 2020 American Bar Foundation

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Thank you to Brayden King, Sophie Dubuisson-Quellier, Bruce Carruthers, Joshua Basseches, Grace Augustine, and all of the members of the social movement workshop at Northwestern University and the members of the disability section of the Society for the Study of Social Problems for their careful review on previous iterations of this work. Thank you also for the anonymous reviewers of Law & Social Inquiry for their comments to shape this version of the article.



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