Revista de Gestão Revista de Gestão
Revista de Gestão 2017;24:13-23 - Vol. 24 Núm.1 DOI: 10.1016/j.rege.2016.08.002
Human Resources and Organizations
Human Resources practices and inclusion of people with disabilities in the hotel industry of Belém, Brazil: a multiple case study
Práticas de Recursos Humanos e inserção de pessoas com deficiência na rede hoteleira de Belém, Brasil: um estudo de múltiplos casos
Maria Auxiliadora Diniz de Sáa,, , Maria Ilma de Melo Oliveiraa, Sonia Maria Rodrigues Calado Diasa, Maria de Lourdes Azevedo Barbosab
a Faculdade Boa Viagem, Recife, PE, Brazil
b Universidade Federal de Pernambuco, Recife, PE, Brazil
Recebido 13 Julho 2012, Aceitaram 09 Agosto 2016

The hospitality market has as a main goal to show a place that is perfect and beautiful. In order to serve the needs of guests, hotels depend on professionals that have much, few, or almost no contact with the guests. For these professionals, things such as good appearance, good diction, perfect hair and nails are required in order to meet the hotel market standards. Based on this, this work sought to figure out how these organizations react to the insertion of disabled professional in the working place, through the analysis of the Human Resource practices of three hotels Belém, Pará, northern Brazil. This research follows a qualitative approach. Data collection was made through interviews and non-participant observations. Data analysis was made through Content Analysis. The results identified the Human Resource practices set on the insertion of people with disabilities, compared them, and found that only one hotel works with all HR practices studied. In all studied hotels, it was noticed that during the selection the main focus was on the type and severity of the disability, excluding the most severe ones. The absolute criteria is the search for a lighter disability and not the search for the specific skills needed to fulfill a position. This led to the belief that the mere insertion of people living with disabilities in a company does not necessarily means that they are really being included, this information should serve as a reflection for companies and future studies on the topic.


O ambiente hoteleiro é voltado para mostrar sempre um lugar que prima pela perfeição e pela beleza, atributos que se materializam na aparência física do hotel, tanto interna quanto externamente. Para dar suporte às necessidades dos hóspedes, os meios de hospedagem dependem, em sua quase totalidade, da atuação de profissionais com variadas qualificações que têm muito, pouco ou quase nenhum contato com os hóspedes. O Departamento de Recursos Humanos (RH) é o responsável por buscar pessoas com as competências necessárias ao atendimento das necessidades da organização e consequentemente dos hóspedes. Itens como boa aparência, boa dicção, cabelos e unhas bem feitos etc. fazem parte dos pré-requisitos para se enquadrar nos padrões das empresas hoteleiras. Nesse contexto, buscou-se entender como a cultura dessas organizações reage à inserção profissional das pessoas com deficiência no ambiente de trabalho. Para tanto, foi feito um estudo de múltiplos casos, em que foram selecionados, como unidades de análise, três hotéis: Independente, de Rede Nacional e de Rede Internacional da cidade de Belém, Estado do Pará. A abordagem adotada nesta pesquisa foi de natureza qualitativa, tanto na coleta quanto na análise dos dados. A base para a análise dos dados foram as transcrições do conteúdo das entrevistas e das anotações colhidas no diário de campo. Salienta-se que o exame dos resultados foi feito por meio da análise de conteúdo. Dos resultados encontrados, os mais relevantes foram: a existência de elementos da cultura organizacional, tais como valores, crenças, mitos, tabus, pressupostos, normas, histórias, rituais e cerimônias e como cada um desses elementos interfere na inserção de pessoas com deficiência; bem como a identificação das práticas de gestão de recursos humanos adotadas na inserção de funcionários com deficiência. Por fim, conclui-se que dos três hotéis, apenas o de Rede Internacional trabalha todas as práticas que fizeram parte deste estudo e que os outros dois usam apenas as práticas de recrutamento e seleção.

People with disabilities, Human Resources, Organizational culture, Hospitality.
Pessoa com deficiência, Recursos humanos, Cultura organizacional, Hotelaria

The tourism industry in Brazil grows every year, gaining greater importance in social and economic development (Naves & Coleta, 2004). Even the Hotel Business, although facing a crisis that affected the world, has presented expressive growth (ABHI-PA).

The city of Belém, state of Pará, located in Brazil, has presented a significant growth regarding the hotel sector structure in the latter years (ABHI-PA). After all, the city of Belém is the largest city in the world that is located on the equator, and it is the natural entrance door for the realm of Amazon, its friendly people, its natural beauties, its historical heritage, and the investments that are being done indicate a great potential for tourism (Teixeira, Teixeira, & Vieira, 2006, p. 2).

This growth in the hotel industry creates the need for a large number of workforces in a variety of functions. After all, to support the guests’ needs, hotels depend on the human element (Marques, 2003, p. 333). The department of Human Resources (HR) is the one responsible for finding these professionals. It is important to note that, to work in the front office of the hotel business, these professionals must keep good appearance, have good diction, perfect hair and nails, etc. (Castelli, 2003).

In this context, one of the challenges of hiring people with disabilities (PwDs), especially in the hotel industry could be the emphasis on the physical appearance of hotel employees (Groschl, 2007). Regarding this issue, Wood (1992) argues that for positions involving a high level of contact with the public, hotels often look for people who present a reasonable level of physical attractiveness, these aspects generally linked to beauty.

Therefore, a kind of cult of beauty and perfection is created. This leaves behind people that do not fit in the established standards, even when they have the required or even additional skills to perform the job. Cristina and Resende (2006, p. 1) consider that this situation is still more worrying for PwDs, who, in addition to living in a competitive environment, have to face the “famous and invincible prejudice”.

In Brazil, the concern with the inclusion of people with disabilities stood out after the creation of the Law 8213/91, also called Law of quotas, which obligates all companies with more than 100 employees to have between 2 and 5 percent of its vacancies designated to PwDs.

This law, however, does not guarantee PwDs with access to the labor market (Mourão, Sampaio, & Duarte, 2012; Tanaka & Manzini, 2005; Wooten, 2008) because of innumerable obstacles, including: prejudice regarding PwDs’ capacity of contributing (Campos, Vasconcellos, & Kruglianskas, 2013; Costilla, Neri, & Carvalho, 2002); failures in the professional formation and training processes (Tanaka & Manzini, 2005, p. 275); and individual, economic and social factors (Ta & Leng, 2013).

In order to better know the specific issue of the inclusion of PwDs’ in the hotel industry of the State of Pará, this research studied hotels subject to the Law of quotas (hotels with more than 100 employees). Three different kinds of establishments were included: an Independent Hotel (smaller, unique, and family-owned), a Hotel that belongs to a National Chain (part of many units owned by one national company), and a Hotel that belongs to an International Chain (part of many units owned by one international company). By doing this, this research sought to understand how three distinct management patterns in the hotel business reacted to the insertion of people with disabilities.

According to Carvalho-Freitas de, Leal, and Souto (2011) survey, conducted between 2000 and 2010 having as theme the issue of employment of PwDs, some international studies address the situation, in the case Lebanon (Wehbi & El-Lahib, 2007), barriers to PcDs employment in Canada (Shier, Graham, & Jones, 2009) and the work on their own (self-employment) among PwDs from 13 European countries and its advantages for these people (Pagán, 2009). An ethnographic study conducted in Cambodia, associating disability and discrimination at work (Gartrell, 2010) and a study on the nature of the barriers that people with disabilities face in the work environment in Kenya, Africa (Opini, 2010).

Finally, there is a study on discriminatory practices in hiring PwDs in New Zealand (Harcourt, Lam, & Harcourt, 2005). According to the authors, it should be noted that the main issues of interest are linked to discrimination and barriers to employment, indicating that these issues do not seem to depend on cross cultural contexts and different countries. Regarding the national scientific production on the subject, according to Faria and Carvalho (2011), few studies still need to be forward, to the extent that there is 45.6 million Brazilians with disabilities, which shows the importance of studying the subject. Within this context, this study aimed to answer the following research question: How do human management practices guide the inclusion of people with disabilities in the hotel industry of Belém, State of Pará, Brazil?

Theoretical basisHuman Resources practices

For years, society has excluded PwDs from social life. Ribas (2000) states that the cultural image of people living with disabilities was tied to their presumed inability to work. The author emphasizes that: “coherently with this image, executives of philanthropic institutions pursued what they thought was the best: shelter, protection, and asylum for people with disabilities”. This exclusion is still reflected today in several sectors of society (Costilla et al., 2002; Cristina & Resende, 2006).

Brumer, Pavei and Mocelin (2004, p. 302) mentioned the Program of Worldwide Action for Disabled Persons, of United Nations (1982), which said:

experience has shown that, to a large extent, it is the means that determines the effect of a deficiency or of an inability on an individual's daily life. People see themselves relegated to disability when opportunities in the community that are essential for life are denied to them, including family life, education, work, housing, economic and personal security, participation in social and political groups, religious activities, sexual or emotional relationships, access to public facilities, and common lifestyle.

Therefore, it is noted that the UN held a different perspective about PwDs, considering them as citizens who possess rights and obligations, and who are participants and builders of society. This is remarkable since, from this moment on, new international laws motivated countries to produce national laws, which guaranteed PwDs an equal and fair treatment.

In Brazil, since 1991, with the implementation of the Law of quotes, the companies with more than 100 employees were obligated to hire people with disabilities. The right to participate in the labor market was acquired through national and international legislations (Tanaka & Manzini, 2005).

However, there are few PwDs who are effectively included in labor market. Schwarz and Haber (2009, p. 215) considered that there are still many barriers to be overcome, since there is a lack of knowledge about this issue, and a lack of qualified professionals with disabilities. Still according to these authors, these professionals have to deal with the lack of structural, technological, communicational, and attitudinal accessibility, as well as with issues regarding urban mobility, accessible means of transportation, and quality education.

Belizário (2009, p. 15) denounces that, among companies, there are some which are only concerned with following the Law and are, thus, reserving the vacancies of lower hierarchical levels, worse payments, and with no prospect of career advancement to PwDs. There are also others, which are delaying the employment of people with disabilities, even though these companies are at risk of suffering legal sanctions, because its managers think they will have to invest a lot to adjust the organizational structure and to change the daily work routine.

Although PwDs have the right to participate in the labor market guaranteed by legislation, difficulties are part of the process of actually finding a position in a company (Beltrão & Brunstein, 2012). When a company decides to create positions for people with disabilities, it overcomes the barriers that traditionally exclude these people from productive process.

Three issues must be addressed primarily by companies: first of all, the communication problems between employers and employees; second, the lack of experience of current employees in working with people living with disabilities; and, third, the precarious education and professionalization of most of the individuals living with disabilities (Ethos, 2002, p. 21).

It is in this context that people management practices become especially relevant. One of the factors that makes HR an strategic dimension of companies is the elaboration of HR policies, which, in Fleury's (2009) opinion, must be connected to “a strategic plan, transforming goals into guidelines, which will, by their turn, be translated into concrete practices” (Fleury, 2009, p. 116).

In the next section, some well recognized people management practices will be presented, as well as their implications.

Recruitment and selection. Recruitment and selection processes are important tools not only to integrate people, but also as a strategic (Limongi-França & Arellano, 2002; Zacarelli & Teixeira, 2008), cultural, and political factor (Zacarelli & Teixeira, 2008). Zacarelli and Teixeira (2008) emphasize that choosing individuals to participate in a company's group work is not an isolated process anymore. In fact, this process is a part of daily routine in companies that try to find and employees who may aggregate certain qualities and advantages to the company.

Pantzier and Schröder (2010, p. 75) state that recruitment is a phase of the process of aggregating people to a company that “seeks to attract and invite people to participate in the organization”. Mullins (2004, p. 275) highlights that “it is important to guarantee justice and equal treatment to all candidates”.

In this sense, what is the situation of PwDs? What positions are more suitable for them? Should their recruitment and selection processes be equal to those of other people? The Ministry of Work and Employment (Mte, 2007, p. 27) clarifies that companies, when selecting PwDs, should only list requirements that are adequate to PwDs’ realities and peculiarities.

Regarding this issue, Schwarz and Haber (2009) alert that the obligation to hire PwDs should never surpass human dignity, therefore, all hiring processes of professionals with disabilities should be done in the same way as those of other professionals. The authors emphasize that the hiring process should not be done:

in a hurry, only to enforce the law. It is necessary to offer defined positions or activities, respecting the professionalism of these people who do not want to be the object of charity nor to remain excluded in ‘special institutions’ (Schwarz & Haber, 2009, p. 215).

One of the interviewees in a study developed by Serrano and Brunstein (2007) reported her indignation regarding newspaper advertising which recruited disabled people for a position, because she believed that individuals should be hired because of their specialties and not because of their disabilities. In fact, it is possible to find, everyday, examples of the recruitment of people with disabilities to occupy certain vacancies in the media without any information regarding the position that they will hold in companies. In this sense, it is understood that companies should not be looking for disabilities, but rather for skills. People with disabilities have the right to be respected whatever the nature of their disabilities is (Mte, 2007, p. 27).

With respect to the method used to recruit people, Souto and Garcia (2009) explain that they may vary: recommendation from previous employees, advertising, and recruitment in schools, internet, professional associations, employment agencies, and recruiters. In the case of PwDs, companies may look for alternative manners, such as, for an example, outsourcing service (Ethos, 2002).

The recruitment is the initial phase to fill positions in a company and it supports the process of selection (Limongi-França & Arellano, 2002, p. 64). The selection, on the other hand, ends with the choice of the most suitable candidate for a job among all those recruited. This is done using several instruments such as analyses, evaluations, and data comparison (Limongi-França & Arellano, 2002, p. 66). Fernandes and Silva (2008, p.194) refer to the process of selection of a disabled person as equal to the “process of selection of a normal person, in which they need to satisfactorily analyze the position for which the company intends to hire, given that it is through this analysis that it is possible to place the person living with a disability”.

In this sense, if an organization decides to hire a person with disabilities, regardless of it being required by law, and does not have the structure to do this, there are, in Brazil, NGOs and government institutions which may support the companies through this process. In Belém, the National System of Employment (NSE), the Association of Disabled People in Pará (ADPA), and the Association to Value People with Disability (AVPD) may assist companies.

The first step in the selection process of PwDs, according to Fernandes and Silva (2008, p. 193) is:

to analyze and predict some factors such as the quantity of persons that will be hired, the necessary skills, when and how they should be recruited, the nature of vacancies, and the qualifications needed to fill them.

According to Mullins (2004) the kind of disability is the least relevant variable in the selection process. In a study conducted by the author, she concludes that

all researched companies consider that ‘sometimes’ the kind of disability may interfere in hires. Even tough the kind of disability is not strongly present in the selection process, it is important to highlight that the preference for one type of disability may be characterized as a discriminatory practice (Mullins, 2004, p. 276).

To find the ideal person for a position, it is necessary to apply certain techniques that will help the decision. The selection methods used by companies vary according to the context and time (Zaccarelli & Teixeira, 2008, p. 130). The main techniques used in this process are interviews, tests, and simulations. Zacarelli and Teixeira (2008)remembers that the analysis of the resume is the first step of selection processes.

In a study made by Araújo and Schmidt (2006), education was pointed as the major obstacle to hiring PwDs because the minimal educational requirement among researched companies was the completion of Junior High school. In this research, the authors also concluded that “in a general way, most of the companies interviewed cannot comply with the Law of Quotas, even tough, predominantly, they say that they would hire people living with disabilities due to the pressures made by the referred Law” (Araújo & Schmidt, 2006, p. 250).

When the selection is finalized, the company will be able to decide whether it should hire or not a certain individual. At the end of this process, the individual who was until then just a candidate to a position becomes an employee accepted by the group and, consequently, feels that he or she is a part of the organization.

Socialization. After all interviews and tests are completed, it is time for the candidate to assume a commitment with the company. From this point on, another process – integration or functional socialization – starts. This process is a natural extension of recruitment and selection. It starts with the interviews and continues through the first months after a hire.

Mullins (2004, p. 279) explains that the integration “is designed in order to help new employees to get familiar with the environment, to easily adapt to their new roles, and to establish good professional relationships with current employees”. For the author, regarding the hotel industry, the integration training must “highlight the multicultural nature of work environment, emphasizing the importance of acting in an integrated and balanced manner (Mullins, 2004, p. 280).

Pantzier and Schröder (2010, p. 76) explain that there is a great misunderstanding when companies think that, in order to socialize newly hired employees, it is enough to present the company and introduce the current employees, imagining that this is a form of integration.

These same authors emphasize that there are several ways of socialization, some of which are quite creative, such as: using mentors; connecting employees through their hobbies; producing events, especially events which involve food; integrating employees outside of the company. Caldas (1999) explains that “the individual also wants the socialization process to occur in the least painful way and, to accelerate its acceptance, seeks information that may reduce uncertainties and difficulties.

Thévenet (1989, p. 47) showed the other side of the integration process of an employee, which is the influence exerted by the organizational culture on the individual. Thévenet (1989) also reports that it is during the first days or weeks in the new job that the company communicates the most fundamental messages to new employees. The value of socialization for organizational culture is revealed by Robbins (2005, p. 382) who highlights it as one of the three pillars of the maintenance of organizational culture, along with the selection process and the leadership styles.

Using an even broader view, Carvalho-Freitas et al. (2010, p. 37) understands organizational socialization as:

The process of learning values, beliefs, and world views that are specific of a certain organizational culture. This process may include: the acquisition of the organizational ethos, which is not necessarily expressed by words; the conditions to learn how to behave and act; the degree of organizational tolerance regarding differences and divergences; expectations that may be held; issues that may be expressed explicitly, to whom, when and how to approach them; and what should be valued as well as what should be forgotten.

Finally, it is questioned: how does the socialization of PwDs happen in companies? Does the hotel industry follow the trends of other organizations? Does this process happen differently for PwDs than for other employees? In this sense, Gil (2002, p. 9) calls attention to the fact that:

[…] it is necessary to assure conditions for the interaction of disabled people with other employees, and with all partners and clients to whom they should relate. Therefore, it is not just about hiring people with disabilities, but also about offering them possibilities to develop their talents and remain in the company while meeting the performance criteria previously established.

Training and development. In a context marked by accelerated changes, organizations try to invest in training and development for their employees. After all, success for any organization is directly related to people's performances (Mullins, 2004; Tachizawa, Ferreira, & Fortuna, 2006). In the case of the hotel industry, this condition is present at all moments, since this kind of company deals with people from different places of the world, different cultures, and diverse needs on a daily basis. Therefore, employees have to be prepared to face the most unexpected situations.

Thus, it seems unquestionable the relevance that the training and development areas (T&D) have acquired among Human Resources’ functions (Eboli, 2002, p. 185). In this sense, Pimenta (2004, p. 138) clarifies that this relevance is due to the fact that the company becomes competitive, which justifies the investment in Training and Development (T&D). Tachizawa et al. (2006) defends that the process of T&D should be permanent and involve all areas of a company, under the supervision of Human Resources.

Regarding training, Mullins (2004, p. 282) states that its goal is to enhance the knowledge and skills of employees, developing an adequate attitude. The same author affirms that it is also the basis for personal development and for management succession. Bergamini (1980, p. 39) employs the term training “as a specific preparation for a good performance in several tasks that compose different positions”.

In the case of tourism, it is a fact that for this to develop, a high level of quality and productivity is needed within Human Resources. Thus, initiatives that involve training are required, since this can be a key factor for personal development and for the improvement of quality standards in touristic organizations (Rodrigues et al., 2005).

In regards to development, Ratto (2008, p. 265) explains that the aspects in focus are “the integration of the employee within the company and with his colleagues, the flexibility and openness to changes, team work, qualification to exercise positions of leadership, and leadership skills development”.

It is possible to see training as a short-term process, while organizational development is a long-term investment (Pimenta, 2004, p. 143). It is possible, therefore, to perceive training as one aspect of employee development, and that both training and employee development are aspects of a bigger plan, which is the organizational development (Pimenta, 2004; Ratto, 2008).

Regarding the PwDs, how are they involved in this context? What kind of policies of T&D do companies hold for people who live with disabilities? For Fonseca (2001, p. 155):

The right to professionalization assumes, here, an essential role of socialization of the disabled, since their limitations for work constitute a barrier to work only in an instrumental way, whether their limitations are physical, mental, or sensorial. All of them are possible to overcome if the prejudices, inherited perhaps from ancient conceptions of primitive people who believed that a disabled is a ‘sinner punished by God,’ are overcome.

Once the hiring is made effective, the organization must provide PwDs the same opportunities of training and development that are offered to other employees, respecting their limitations. Sassaki (2003, p. 69) suggests that the companies include the disabled professionals in their career promotion plans, giving them the same opportunities as other employees.


The choice for a qualitative approach is due to the fact that it makes possible to search for the studied phenomenon using the perspective of the people involved in it (Godoy, 1996). Among the techniques chosen were bibliographic and documental research and field study.

This research is a case study, considering that this kind of strategy is used to answer questions about “what” and “why” (Yin, 2001). As this study was conducted with more than one hotel (units of analysis), based on Yin (2001), it may be classified as a multiple case study.

The loci of this investigation were three hotels located in Belém, Brazil, which follow three different administration models. They were classified as: Independent Hotel (HI), Hotel belonging to a National Chain (HNC), and Hotel belonging to an International Chain (HIC). These three different kinds of establishments were included by having different organizational cultures, taking into account its management structure: an Independent Hotel (smaller, unique, and family-owned), a Hotel that belongs to a National Chain (part of many units owned by one national company), and a Hotel that belongs to an International Chain (part of many units owned by one international company). By doing this, this research sought to understand how three distinct management patterns in the hotel business reacted to the insertion of people with disabilities. The goal of choice for these different types of management was to verify the possible existence of differences or similarities in the way of conducting the policies and practices of Human Resources in relation to the PwDs and the extent to which they are applied in hotels with different management structures.

The selection of research subjects focused on Human Resource managers, who are in direct contact with policies and practices of people management, including those geared toward professionals with disabilities. Nine persons were interviewed, three Human Resource managers (all female) and six PwDs (half male and half female). Of the PwDs interviewed, half had become disabled due to accidents, and the others were born with a disability, a hearing disability in all cases. Semi-structured interviews were used for data collection, since this is an efficient technique to obtain data regarding several aspects of social life (Gil, 2002). Non-participant observation was also conducted, which made it possible to make notes about physical and behavioral aspects during the interviews. This data collection happened between June 1st and July 4th, 2011. Interviews with HR managers, people with disabilities and the observations were carried out as a form of data triangulation, seeking greater consistency in the results, as recommended by Yin (2001). On average, each interview lasted 40min. All interviews were transcribed and analyzed based on categories drawn up a posteriori, following the procedures suggested by Bardin (1977).

In accordance with the goals of this research, its Content Analysis was used. Content Analysis is a “set of techniques used to analyze communication which includes systematic and objective proceedings to describe the content of messages” (Bardin, 1977, p. 38).

Analysis of dataIndependent Hotel (IH)

This hotel has been on business for over thirty years, having a great status in the market. It employs over 158 people. From these, three live with disabilities: one has a visual disability, the other, a physical, and the third, a hearing disability. Two of them work in the general services sector and the third in the maintenance sector.

Table 1 summarizes the findings about the HR practices employed to include people with disabilities in this Hotel.

Table 1.

Human Resource practices in the Independent Hotel.

Categories  Hotel's practices 
Recruitment  Done by the National System of Employment (NSE) and any other kind of resource. 
Selection  The candidate is interviewed first by the general manager, then by the manager of the specific area. There are no tests or other requirements. 
Socialization  There is no ceremony to receive the newly admitted employees. They only receive a manual with the Hotel's rules that they should keep with them all the time. 
Training  Inexistent practice for professionals with disabilities. 
Development  There is no intention of investing on disabled employees. 

Source: the authors.

From the manager's statements, it was possible to notice that the Human Resources practices are only associated with the initial process of entrance of new employees in the company, being restricted to recruitment and selection.

In the categories of recruitment, selection, and socialization, it is important to emphasize that there was a convergence between the information given by the manager and by the employees interviewed. In the case of training and development, there is also a convergence between the manager's statements and employees’ statements, when they affirmed that there is no investment in these areas for people with disabilities. This can be perceived through the statement made by Employee 3 (E3):

No, I am working here for 1 year and 7 months and I never participated [in training]. I have already done it outside, in company X, in which I worked for a while, so sometimes I go back there to see if there is something new in the place that I worked. I am anxious because in the position that I have now there are always new products that we have to deal with every day, and we need to be updated” (E3).

The justification for the non-existence of training specific to PwDs can be perceived in the manager's (M) statement below:

Look… (showing doubts), see… they can’t, don’t demonstrate, that is what I am telling you about the difficulties of, the, the… of a maid, to be a maid, to be a waiter […] I mean, it is not possible (M).

The company, as can be seen, has no intention of investing in its employees with disabilities. Therefore, they have few or no perspectives of growth and development.

Besides, the PwDs are restricted to few areas and positions in the Hotel: the administrative, general services, and maintenance sectors The managers explained explicitly that this situation is the best for PwDs in order to guarantee their safety, as well as for the hotel, since the guests are there to see “beautiful” things:

and some other sectors, as for example, in the restaurant it is also not possible, we avoid putting them in the kitchen because of sharp material, and in the laundry because of the machines (M)

The guests arrive and they want to be well received, see a beautiful receptionist, you know, I mean, a ‘good evening’ well said and all those things that become more complicated with a disability (M).

On the other hand, E3 expresses the opposite: that he would have the opportunity to compete for any better position in the company if he would be more qualified:

I think not, I think everybody is able to fill a position, anyone can be in any position with no difficulties […] (E3).

… you know that you are qualified to be perform this function, but if you are not, it is not possible to go to a sector unprepared (E3).

Regarding the perception of inclusion of people with disabilities, a divergence was noticed in the opinions of manager and employees. On one hand, there is the organization that must comply with the Law, and on the other hand, there are the PwDs who hold a positive view about their insertion in that company. These two different positions can be seen below:

The interest is because there is the Law, and the company has to fill a certain percentage to meet the requirements of the Law (M).

Maybe it is a way to give opportunity to disabled people, because many times what a person does, is not just because the person has disabilities that she must not be a good professional, I think this must be it (E2).

Finally, when comparing the HR manager's and disabled employees’ affirmatives, it is possible to find, as divergent points, the practices of: development, interest for inclusion, and reclusion in specific sectors; as convergent points are listed the practices of: recruitment, selection, training, and socialization.

Hotel belonging to a National Chain (HNC)

This hotel is a part of a national chain of hotels that possesses units in four Brazilian states. Although it only has sixty employees, the HR manager informed the researcher that the hotel is required to hire two persons with disabilities, since the quota was stipulated for the whole chain and not just for the individual hotel. The hotel, however, had only one employee with a disability during the time of this research. The manager said she was “waiting some time”, but that she would do a selection soon.

In this hotel there is no Human Resources department, but rather a Personnel Department; therefore, HR practices are inexistent. This can be seen in Table 2.

Table 2.

Human Resource practices in the Hotel of National Chain.

Categories  Hotel's practices 
Recruitment  Practice is delegated to the National System of Employment (NSE). 
Selection  Interviews and analysis of working history 
Socialization  Inexistent. The only ritual is to take the new employees to know the facilities of the hotel and their workplace. 
Training  Inexistent, but with perspectives of existing in the future, focusing on all employees, in general. 
Development  Inexistent. 

Source: the authors.

Recruitment is delegated to one of the institutions that supports workers with disabilities. This is because it is easier to select employees this way, and because there are no costs involved. The manager even says “No way! Am I going to spend money because of this? (Smiled)”.

The manager performs bureaucratic activities in the Personnel Department, being one of them to hire workers. In this sense, the only activity developed to this end (hiring people) is the selection process, which is very simple, through an interview.

Regarding the severity of the disabilities of candidates to a position, there were reported restrictions for some kinds of disabilities, especially the most severe. The manager justifies this attitude saying that PwDs are only hired for the General Services department, and that a severe disability may serve as an excuse to not perform determined tasks.

No, because after she will find an excuse not to work she does. She comes to tell me that she has a special need… she… everything that I asked her if she would be fine doing, she said she will, that it is ok, but after sometime, she will say: - Oh!… I cannot do this, I cannot do that [Manager does a high voice and an expression of disdain]. Do you understand? (M).

According to the interviewee, it is common for PwDs to not work well and to use their disability as an excuse for that. According to her, one of the reasons for this would be the possibility of receiving unemployment insurance in case of dismissal as well as the easiness to be hired again in the labor market.

After almost a year they already have all the benefits […] they know that, on the next day, if they look for it, they will get a job, you know? It is complicated (M).

In her speech, prejudices regarding the capacity to contribute of these people were found, as well as assumptions about their way of working, and even their character, as in her reference to “finding excuses not to work” or even her reference to disabilities that were so light that seemed to be only an excuse, as seen below:

about five years ago, when I started to work, I hired an old lady who was hearing impaired, but I am going to tell, she could listen to everything, she listened from the phone, normal, I am telling you, she listened normally, but she had a medical certificate, right?

The hotel also does not allow PwDs to compete for the same positions that people without disabilities. Regarding their reclusion to specific sectors, the manager affirmed that PwDs do not have the possibility of exerting functions out of the general services department.

This condition was unknown by the employee interviewed, given that she had the understanding that she could work in any sector of the company: “No, in any of them, but this is the only one that I like”.

The manager also pointed the lack of interest in hiring people with disabilities, saying that the Hotel only does this to comply with the Law.

It is complicated; it is a “kind” for those who want to work (M).

What is the interest? We do not have interest, the government obligates us to hire them […] if I could get rid of some, and I would get rid of them, ok? (M).

On the other hand, the employee's report shows that she believed that the hotel had an interest in her experience as cleaner: “First they wanted a person to take care of the cleaning here, then they liked my service and I already had this experience […]”.

Finally, the data also presented a divergence between the manager and the employee regarding the socialization process. The manager mentioned that, after signing the contract, the person walks through the Hotel and then learns about her place of work. The employee said that she was only taken to know her place of work (general services).

There were no reports regarding training and development by any of the interviewees. However, the manager mentioned that a HR department would be created soon, and that, after this, there would be trainings for all employees: “For everyone. For employees in general. After all, we have few [PwDs] here” (M).

Therefore, divergences between manager and employee's perceptions were found: socialization, interest for inclusion, and reclusion in specific sectors for PwDs; and as convergent points were found the practices of: recruitment, selection, and training.

Hotel belonging to an International Chain (HIC)

This international hotel possesses 134 employees. Although the Law of Quotas requires three disabled employees for this hotel, only two employees currently present disabilities. There is a third person who, however, has not yet been formally hired.

In this hotel, an unexpected situation was found. On the first visit to the hotel, the researcher was informed that both disabled employees were hearing impaired, but that both of them could communicate because they used a device and because they could read and write. In the day of their interview, though, it was found that the employees had a severe disability, and that they could not hear almost anything. Besides, they did not use a device, and neither of them could read or write. This situation made communicating very difficult, since it was not possible to talk with them, and they could not answer a written questionnaire. Therefore, most of the information in this session originated from the manager's reports.

In this hotel, several HR practices are adopted, but there is nothing specific to PwDs. There are only generalized practices for all employees, independently of having a disability or not, as can be seen in Table 3.

Table 3.

Human Resource practices in the Hotel of International Chain.

Categories  Hotel's practices 
Recruitment  There are several practices for the recruitment of PwDs. 
Selection  Depends on the position, being possible to use more than one technique or a combination of several of them. 
Socialization  Socialization occurs every month in an occasion in which all employees hired in that period are gathered and the rules, rights, and duties of all employees are presented. 
Training  The disabled employees participate in all training and all activities organized by the hotel, which, however, are not sufficiently inclusive. 
Development  There is the possibility of ascending in the organization. 

Source: the authors.

With respect to recruitment, according to the managers, the hotel has a good database; also, to hire disabled employees, they had already done an internal recruitment. An interesting point is that the call for applications is done using the disability and not the position, which is apparently incoherent with the hotel's values. The employee 1 confirmed the manager's statement about recruitment (E1), who can lip-read. After a lot of effort, this employee also said that the advertising focused on the disability and not on the position that corroborates with the managers statement:

We never specify the position, but depending on the needs of the person, we put the person in a vacancy according to her disability, in order to allow her to perform the tasks. I am not going to put a hearing impaired in the reception because he is not going to have the understanding (M).

From what was exposed above, and following the same line of though, the manager justifies the fact that the hotel does not accept that PwDs compete for the same vacancies offered to people without disabilities. The manager's arguments are related to the impossibility of a PwD to perform certain tasks: “We cannot open a position to people that may not be able to fulfill the position's requirements” (M).

In the case of employees with hearing disabilities, it was reported that the selection of both employees was made through the application of a practical test, since both of them had experience in the area. However, in this occasion, it was clarified that during the selection, the choice of the candidate is also based in the kind and degree of the disability:

What could be perceived in the moment was that they had already been in similar situations before, that they had performed similar tasks, and the fact that they don’t have a physical disability, hands, arms, gave us the possibility to put them in two sectors: kitchen and governance, where we were needing people (M).

It was noticed, in the manager's report, that this hotel favors PwDs who present lighter disabilities. Even tough they hired two persons with severe disabilities; they pursued a perfect physical aspect. Besides, the manager said that the Law of Quotas is the main reason they hire people with disabilities.

Despite the fact that both PwDs participate in all training processes, an interpreter is never present, which compromises their effective participation and comprehension of the training. In addition, there is the aggravating factor that none of the other employees of the company can use sign language, which further complicates communication with the disabled professionals:

They normally participate in all trainings, they are invited, and we use visual aids, right? Thus it is very easy for them, because they read the PowerPoint, see the pictures, we put up images to help their understanding (M).

The manager reported that the two employees participated in all activities and emphasized: “They are concerned about participating in everything!” (M).

However, it was perceived that when they were invited to participate in some events, they did not have any idea of what was happening. Besides, because they cannot read, they are unable to take advantage of the visual resources mentioned. They participate only because they physically present in the space. This was exactly what happened in the day of the interview for this study, when they were taken away from their work and left in the HR room without a clue of what was happening. This conclusion can be drawn by observing their body language and posture as sources of non-verbal language.

Another interesting point is the existence of the possibility to ascend in the career, as reported by the manager: “Sure, especially because they are two persons who are very accessible, they don’t have difficulties regarding anything, time, schedule, absences”.

However, as the positions destined to PwDs are defined according to the type of disability, so is the possibility of ascending within the company. The professionals with disabilities tend to work in specific sectors, according to the data obtained in this research. It was noted that the manager presented a discriminatory attitude regarding the PwDs’ ability to work and, consequently, to their allocation in several sectors of the hotel (reception, laundry, restaurant, kitchen, etc.).


Among the hotels researched, only one of them (HIC) plans and executes all Human Resources practices, which are the focus of this study. The other two basically focus on the selection process. The pursuit for the easier manner of doing recruitment and selection, demonstrated by the hotels IH and HNC, shows the unpreparedness on the part of many organizations in dealing with the inclusion of disabled employees. For Ribas (2000) this happens because “most of the companies, until recently, hire them only because they are obligated to comply with the Law. They end up hiring few [PwDs], in a disorderly manner, without criteria or planning, and, therefore, without real commitment”.

In all studied hotels, it was noticed that during the selection the main focus was on the type and severity of the disability, excluding the most severe ones. The absolute criteria is the search for a lighter disability and not the search for the specific skills needed to fulfill a position. This led to the belief that the mere insertion of people living with disabilities in a company does not necessarily means that they are really being included (Fernandes & Silva, 2008). What occurs in these cases is an integration (Sassaki, 2003), i.e., a punctual adaptation that does not require a structural change in a company; it is the person living with a disability who must adapt to a poorly planned situation (Guimarães, 1999).

Socialization, which is, in theory, essential for both the company and the employee (Carvalho-Freitas et al., 2010, p. 265) is executed only by the hotel HIC. With respect to training and development (T&D), the situation is the same.

In the case of IH, the manager makes it clear that the hotel has no intention of investing in disabled employees, which is an attitudinal barrier (Sassaki, 2003). Cox and Baele (1997) observe that one of the factors that generate a feeling of exclusion is the lack of attitudinal accessibility, as well as prejudices and stereotypes.

However, why not invest in people that are already part of the company? The answer to this question is in Marcondes’ (2008) conceptualization about what Training and Development. He says that “training is the improvement of the employee's performance in order to enhance the productivity of resources“, while development is “the worker's qualification to reach new positions”. The hotels IH and HNC stigmatize disabled people and exclude them from social interaction, especially with guests. In both managers’ statements (IH and HNC) this is clear when, during selection processes, things such as schooling and professional experience are not considered.

When questions about HR practices were made, it was possible to notice some indications of prejudice in managers’ speech. They displayed features such as: preference for lighter disabilities; allocation of PwDs in exclusionist sectors; search for disabilities that may be hidden; lack of development in PwDs’ careers in the companies; belief that PwDs do not have ability to execute a diverse range of activities; desire to comply with the Law of Quotas as the main reason to hire PwDs.

The analysis of managers’ and PwDs’ responses provided the opportunity to understand how their relationship works. There were convergences in the statements regarding HR practices when it came to recruitment, selection, socialization, and training. However, regarding development, the influence of the cultural and social network in which we live was noticed, and it was found that people with disabilities believe in the discourse that says that their employment in the hotels is a result of belief in their potential as professionals, and that they will receive the same opportunities as other employees.

The three managers’ statements indicated that it is not the capacity to contribute of these professionals that matters, demonstrating that they do not seek the social inclusion of this professionals which, even facing limitations, may be as productive as any other person (Cristina & Resende, 2006).


The statements made by managers allow for the verification that the two kinds of insertion exist. One kind inserts PwDs in companies because of the Law's requirements (IH, HNC). It was noticed an indifference regarding the disabled professional's capacity of contributing. The other kind also inserts people to comply with the Law (HIC), but displays more inclusive actions, even though it still does not meet all the adaptations to be truly inclusive.

By analyzing the data, it was noticed that the only hotel that adopts the HR practices studied as a hole in this research (recruitment, selection, socialization, training, and development) was the HIC, and even then, with certain restrictions. This occurs possibly because of international chains from developed countries that have a culture of greater respect for people with disabilities, while that by settling in different countries of origin are required, more accurately to comply with the laws so as not to jeopardize its permanence and expansion in the country of interest. Furthermore, the preservation of the positive image of these companies is an important asset for the sale and maintenance of its brands which includes being socially responsible.

In relation to independent hotels, family-owned and national chain, you may need a breakthrough in business education and a greater exercise of citizenship, since according to research meet the minimum required by law seems to be the way when it comes to policies and practices applied to the case of people with disabilities.

It was also demonstrated that, to different degrees, the selection of PwDs’ occurs as a discriminatory act, be it by the lack of attention given to the issue (IH, HNC) or by the preference for lighter disabilities (HIC).

The placing of disabled people in exclusivist sectors (IH, HNC, HIC) and the impossibility of ascending in their careers (IH, HNC), justified because of the disabilities, shows that there is a primary focus on the disability and its limitation, and not in the people and their potential to contribute to the company. This also justifies the inexistence of specific training and development programs for PwDs.

Finally, it is important to highlight that due to discriminatory statements, it is not surprising that modifications in job descriptions to make them suitable for disabled workers were not found; on the contrary, the PwDs were the ones who had to adapt to their jobs.

Besides, the discourses demonstrated that employees believe that their managers value them as employees in these companies, a belief that is not shared by the managers (IH, HNC). With respect to HIC, it is possible to infer that the manager's discourse that PwDs are keen to participate in all of the hotel's events does not corroborate with reality. It is evident that, in spite of the discourse in favor of social inclusion, this discourse is situational, and there is a great difference between what something looks like, and what it really is.

The unpreparedness of managers in the IH and HNC hotels in dealing with disabled employees was verified, since they hold discourses filled with prejudice and stigma. This situation reached the level of total disrespect and lack of professional ethics when the manager of HNC calls these professionals a “kind”.

From the search results, we present some propositions:

  • 1.

    The hotel companies operating in Brazil must move forward in the aspects related to the definition of policies and practices of Human Resources for people with disabilities;

  • 2.

    The international hotel chains have and apply HR policies and practices for people with disabilities in a manner more consistent when compared to the national chain hotel companies and independent hotels;

  • 3.

    There is still some misunderstanding and preconceived notion regarding the work capacity of people with different levels of disability;

  • 4.

    As the hospitality fantasy and glamor are important principles for managers and customers do not seem to be a clear space in this context for people with disabilities, despite the imposition of the law.

Therefore, this research adds to the understanding that even though there is an enormous legal apparatus (both national and international) which aims to promote the rights of people living with disabilities, there are still cultural forces that prevent them from being fully integrated in the labor market; there is, thus, the need for broader changes within social contexts. The identification of taboos leads to the inference that the complete inclusion of employees with disabilities in the three hotels was compromised.

This study did not aim to exhaust the subject and being a qualitative research brought insights that can serve as a basis for future studies, such as: (1) conduct a quantitative study to verify the applicability of HR policies and practices for people with disabilities; and (2) make a comparative study on HR policies and practices applied to different areas of service.

Conflicts of interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

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Peer Review under the responsibility of Departamento de Administração, Faculdade de Economia, Administração e Contabilidade da Universidade de São Paulo – FEA/USP.

Corresponding author. (Maria Auxiliadora Diniz de Sá
Copyright © 2016. Departamento de Administração, Faculdade de Economia, Administração e Contabilidade da Universidade de São Paulo ¿ FEA/USP
Revista de Gestão 2017;24:13-23 - Vol. 24 Núm.1 DOI: 10.1016/j.rege.2016.08.002