Disability Employment Discrimination Project

We are proud to launch the Disability Employment Discrimination Project. The mission of the project is to enforce disability rights and to help individuals with disabilities access and remain in the workforce. 

Through the project we will provide direct representation and legal advice to low-income people with disabilities, education and outreach to employers and employees. The project will build toward impact litigation to remedy systemic discrimination.

Information for Individuals with Disabilities

We provide free educational materials and presentations on employment rights under the ADA. Please email disabilityintake@pubintlaw.org or 215-627-7100 ex. 233 if you would like information on disability employment rights, or if you have a group that would like to learn about disability employment rights.

Information for Employers

The Americans with Disabilities Act and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act require employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities, prohibits certain kinds of medical inquiries, and prohibits denying a job or promotion on the basis of disability.

Consultation Services

Are you in need of legal advice on employment discrimination because you were denied a job or a promotion, need accommodations at work, or were terminated/demoted because of your disability?

We provide free legal advice and consultation on employment matters to low-income persons with disabilities as well as representation in appropriate cases.

To find out if this program can provide you free legal services, please complete a confidential intake form:

This form is to help determine eligibility for the Public Interest Law Center’s disability-based employment discrimination legal services for clients in Pennsylvania. Please complete this form ONLY if you are seeking legal help with an employment issue, and only if you reside in Pennsylvania.

Please be on notice: By agreeing to a consultation, we are not agreeing to take your case. We do not represent you at this time. We will review the information you provided and if you are eligible we will contact you within 2 weeks. If you are not eligible, we will notify you within 60 days.

Please note we do not accept intake over the phone. You must complete this form to be considered for eligibility for legal services. You can mail, email or fax a copy with any supporting documents. If you have copies of documents that support your claim, please submit them with your form. You can also mail copies (no originals please—they will not be returned), email, or fax copies to:

Disability Employment Discrimination
1709 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Second Floor
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Fax: 215-627-3183
Email: disabilityintake@pilcop.org

All of the information that you provide will be kept confidential.

Updates

Law Center Helps Teaching Aide Return to Work

The Law Center succeeded in returning a teaching aide in the School District of Philadelphia to work. She had been terminated by the District for excessive days off. The District is revising its policies to make clear that employees with medical issues may be entitled under the Americans With Disabilities Act to additional days off as an accommodation for their disability. The settlement with the district also included compensation for part of the time the employee was out of work.

Law Center Helps Deaf Employee Return to Work

Our client successfully worked as a custodian for nearly ten years at the same company before he lost his job.

Like many deaf individuals, our client’s primary language is American Sign Language (ASL), meaning he does not read or write English fluently. Our client repeatedly requested an ASL interpreter to understand what was communicated in his workplace, but his requests were denied. After being denied an ASL interpreter, our client filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in 2011. The Americans with Disabilities Act requires an employer to provide reasonable accommodation to an employee with a disability, including ASL interpreters and other communications aids and services.

Our client’s case languished at the EEOC without investigation for four years until he found the Public Interest Law Center. The Law Center’s Independence Fellow, Julie Foster, investigated our client’s claims and spent more than a year negotiating with his former employer to get him back to work and resolve his claims of discrimination. Most important was ensuring the client had the accommodations he needed to do his job.

It is crucial we continue to help others like our client receive the respect they deserve and put an end to discrimination in the workplace. All people deserve to live a meaningful, fulfilled life and not be illegally denied the opportunity to work.

ADA Accommodations Agreement with PA Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services

The Bureaus of Blindness and Visual Services (BBVS) is the state agency responsible for implementing the federal Randolph-Sheppard Act, which creates opportunities for blind adults to run concessions businesses and cafes in government-owned property. The law was enacted in the 1930s to address the extraordinary high rates of unemployment among blind adults, currently at 60%.

The Act requires an Elected Committee of Blind Vendors to have oversight over program administration in each state. The Pennsylvania Elected Committee convenes regular Committee meetings with BBVS in this capacity. For many years members of the Committee made audio recordings and reduced those recording to a written transcript which served as the meeting minutes. As individuals with blindness, Committee members are unable to make or review written notes. Accordingly, recording the meetings was a reasonable accommodation that enabled the Committee members to create accurate meeting minutes.

In 2010 the director of BBVS prohibited the continued recording of meeting minutes.  BBVS began to take its own minutes of the Committee meetings, but these minutes were incomplete and at times inaccurate. The Committee of Blind Vendors contacted the Disability Employment Discrimination project at the Public Interest Law Center in November 2014. The Committee was concerned that its watchdog role was undermined by its inability to take meeting minutes to record what had been agreed to with BBVS.

Law Center Independence Fellow Julie Foster contacted BBVS to discuss the Committee’s request for reasonable accommodations under Title II of the ADA. BBVS initially asserted that the Pennsylvania Wiretapping Act precluded recordings without permission. However, granting such permission is precisely the kind of reasonable accommodation the ADA requires. By addressing BBVS’s concerns regarding possesssion of the audio recording, the Law Center successfully negotiated an agreement that allows the Committee to record the meetings and have the recording transcribed, redacted and transmitted to all the Randolph-Sheppard program vendors in Pennsylvania.  With these accurate meeting minutes, the Pennsylvania Committee of Blind Vendors can continue its oversight role to ensure fairness of the Randolph-Sheppard program in Pennsylvania.

Lawsuit Seeks to end UPS’s Discriminatory Practice of Failing to Communicate with Deaf Employee

A complaint filed Monday alleges that UPS has illegally denied deaf employee Michael MacDonald reasonable accommodations for equal access to the workplace. The complaint alleges that UPS, a $58 billion company, denied Mr. MacDonald the accommodations of an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter on numerous occasions for over a year.

Mr. MacDonald has worked as a pre-loader at the UPS Philadelphia International Airport facility since September 2014. Like many deaf individuals, Mr. MacDonald’s primary language is ASL, and he does not fluently read and write English. Although federal law requires UPS provide an ASL interpreter, UPS has repeatedly failed to provide one, including twice when it erroneously terminated him. UPS also did not provide any accessible communications to explain that the termination was a mistake. Instead, Michael was sent home from work with no information, and did not know if he would get paid or if he would ever go back to work. UPS has also failed to provide interpreters during company held meetings to provide information to employees.

“UPS has already been sued twice over this. I’m not the only deaf person at UPS who faces discrimination. The court needs to make UPS stop this illegal discrimination,” Mr. MacDonald said through an ASL interpreter.

This is not the first time UPS has faced lawsuits for discrimination against deaf employees. In 2003 there was a national class action requiring UPS to give deaf employees interpreters and other communication services. In 2006, UPS refused to give a deaf employee an interpreter for meetings and brought out a dictionary when the employee said she did not read English. The court ruled that this was illegal discrimination.

This complaint asks the court to order UPS to promptly provide reasonable accommodations to Mr. MacDonald, including ASL interpretation; to develop and implement effective anti-discrimination policies and procedures to ensure all deaf employees and applicants receive access to ASL interpretation; and, to conduct mandatory training for all supervisors and Human Resources staff at the Philadelphia International Airport UPS facility regarding the provision of reasonable accommodations.

“The Americans with Disabilities Act requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to otherwise qualified individuals with disabilities so that they can ‘enjoy equal employment opportunities and participate fully in the workplace.’ Mike is one of many deaf people who can do the job, but are excluded from the workplace because employers fail to provide interpreters and other reasonable accommodations. Mike deserves an equal opportunity to communicate in the workplace,” Julie Foster, Public Interest Law Center Independence Foundation fellow, said.

For more updates on this case, click here.

See other Current Employment Cases & Projects

 

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