Friday, April 2, 2021
As many of you know, for the past two years, we have been moving toward launching a proposed AALS Section on Law Professors with Disabilities and Allies. I am pleased to announce that we are at the stage of having a petition and bylaws drafted, and can now collect signatures for provisional recognition. We need 50 signatures from 25 institutions in order to obtain provisional recognition, but we are hoping to obtain more to demonstrate to AALS the strong support for the proposed Section. (A note: under AALS rules, these signatures must be from full-time faculty or professional staff).
Please sign this form to support the recognition of the Section on Law Professors with Disabilities and Allies by AALS. You can email the form to me at email@example.com. Electronic signatures are acceptable. Anyone who signs will automatically be added as members to the new section and added to the Section listserv. I’d love to get enough signatures to submit to AALS by Wednesday April 14. But even if you are digging through your email later and still want to support the proposed Section, please send along your form even after that deadline. Please also feel free to forward this message on to your own faculties or other groups that may have interested members.
We are still awaiting final word from AALS on whether we will be able to have programming at the 2022 Meeting, but are hoping to be able to do so. We have already identified an awardee that we are hoping to honor (more on that soon once we know for sure if we can honor her this year), and are hoping to launch with a program titled “The Forgotten Demographic: Law Professors With Disabilities in Legal Academia.”
This has definitely been a group effort to get this launched. Many thanks to all of those involved in moving it forward, including our inaugural leadership (in addition to myself: Megan Wright, Chair-Elect; Stacey Tovino, Secretary; and our Executive Committee, Katherine Macfarlane, Pamela Foohey and Nicole Buonocore Porter). Kat Macfarlane deserves particular credit as the person who really nurtured this idea in its early stages and kept it moving forward. Thank you also to the others who have already expressed an interest in joining the leadership moving forward (and if you have not yet expressed such an interest, but are interested, please let me know, since we are keeping track of these names!)
Apologies for those of you who have received this message (or a version of it) on multiple lists. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you have any questions, and I look forward to hearing from many of you!
All my best,
Tuesday, January 5, 2021
Michelle Travis (San Francisco) has posted on SSRN her article (forthcoming 64 Wash. U. J. L. & Pub. Pol'y ___ (2021)) A Post-Pandemic Antidiscrimination Approach to Workplace Flexibility. Here's the abstract:
The dramatic workplace changes in the wake of the global pandemic offer courts both an opportunity and an obligation to reexamine prior antidiscrimination case law on workplace flexibility. Before COVID-19, courts embraced an essentialized view of workplaces built upon a “full-time face-time norm,” which refers to the judicial presumption that work is defined by long hours, rigid schedules, and uninterrupted, in-person performance at a centralized workspace. By applying this presumption to both accommodation requests under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and to disparate impact claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, pre-pandemic courts systematically undermined antidiscrimination law’s potential for workplace restructuring to expand equal opportunities for individuals with disabilities and for women with disproportionate caregiving responsibilities. This Article demonstrates how employers’ widespread adoption of flexible work arrangements in the wake of COVID-19—including telecommuting, modified schedules, temporary leaves, and other flextime options—undermine these prior decisions and demand a new analysis of antidiscrimination law’s potential to advance workplace flexibility.
I think Michelle is exactly right: "with [57%] of U.S. employers now offering their employees flextime or remote work options as a result of [COVID], it is no longer tenable for courts to define work as something done only at a specified time and place." We can do better.
Monday, May 11, 2020
A new journal created by some great Carolina Law students and the UNC Center for Civil Rights is now seeking submissions:
The North Carolina Civil Rights Law Review, a student-run journal at the University of North Carolina School of Law, is now accepting submissions for its inaugural volume. We invite legal scholarship on all variety of civil rights topics.
Priority Review: Submissions received before midnight on July 31, 2020, will receive priority review for publication. Offers will be extended on a rolling basis throughout the summer priority period. Earlier submissions are encouraged.
Standard Review: Submissions received after the priority period will be reviewed on a rolling basis. The editorial board reserves the ability to suspend this standard submissions period at any time after August 1, 2020, in order to best serve the needs of the journal and its staff.
About the Journal: The North Carolina Civil Rights Law Review is a newly formed journal at the University of North Carolina School of Law. It operates in collaboration with the UNC Center for Civil Rights and integrates the long-running annual Conference on Race, Class, Gender, and Ethnicity as its yearly symposium. The journal aims to publish innovative, important scholarship on current issues in civil rights law, with the goal of protecting and advancing individuals’ actual lived experience of civil rights, liberty, and equality today. Topics of general civil rights interest are welcome. Particular consideration will be given to topics related to law and conditions affecting North Carolina and the Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern United States.
Please submit your article along with a short cover letter and current CV or resume to Rachel Grossman, Editor-in-Chief, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Footnotes should comply with The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation (20th ed. 2015).
Thursday, June 6, 2019
Kevin M. Barry (Quinnipiac) and Jennifer Levi (Western New England) have just posted on SSRN their article (forthcoming 35 Touro L. Rev.) The Future of Disability Rights Protections for Transgender People. Here's the abstract:
The Americans with Disabilities Act and its predecessor, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (“Section 504”), protect people from discrimination based on disability, but not if that disability happens to be one of three archaic medical conditions associated with transgender people: “transvestism,” “transsexualism,” and “gender identity disorders not resulting from physical impairments.” This Article tells the story of how this transgender exclusion came to be, why a growing number of federal courts say it does not apply to gender dysphoria, a new and distinct medical diagnosis, and the future of disability rights protections for transgender people.
Wednesday, March 27, 2019
Marcy Karin (UDC) sends word that on March 29th, the UDC Law Review is hosting its annual symposium, Disability Rights: Past, Present, and Future. The focus of the symposium will be on protecting and improving disability rights in today’s challenging environment and tomorrow’s uncertain future. Chai Feldblum, former Commissioner of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, will be the keynote speaker. A number of friends of the blog are speaking on a range of topics, including: The ADAAA at 10; Disability and the #MeToo Movement; Disability, Police Interactions, and the Criminal Justice System; Disability and Education; Disability, Leave, and Caregiving; and Disability Beyond the Workplace.
Anyone in the DMV area – or who wants to see the cherry blossoms and come to the DMV area—is welcome to join for any part of the day-long dialogue about disability rights. Registration (and a full panel/speaker list) is available at bit.ly/DisabilitySymposium. The Law Review’s related call for papers is here: Download UDC Law Review Call for Papers - Disability Rights.
In addition to the symposium, UDC is hosting a reception at Arent Fox at 6pm on March 28th to kick-off the symposium and launch The ADA Project, a new public education resource from the UDC Legislation Clinic and Quinnipiac University Civil Justice Clinic. Registration for the reception is available at bit.ly/TheADAProject.
This looks great!
Thursday, February 28, 2019
Congratulations to Paul Harpur for having been awarded a Future Scholarship Fellowship (funded by The Kinghorn Foundation, Harvard University, Syracuse University, and the University of Queensland) entitled “Universally Designed for Whom? Disability, the Law and Practice of Expanding the 'Normal User'”. Harpur will use his Fulbright Futures Scholarship to spend 3 months between the Burton Blatt Institute at Syracuse University and Harvard University. H will be collecting data and building relationships between Australian and U.S. advocates and researchers involved with the development and promotion of design that is accessible to everyone in society, whether they be able or disabled. Harpur’s research project aims to combat ableism’s influence on human life, so that in the future different ability is not associated with disablement, but instead is accepted as a part of human diversity.
Saturday, February 9, 2019
Nicole Porter (Toledo) has just posted on SSRN a pair of articles well worth reading. Here's the abstract for the article A New Look at the ADA's Undue Hardship Defense (forthcoming Missouri L. Rev.):
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employers must provide accommodations to their disabled employees unless those accommodations cause an undue hardship to the employer. When the ADA was being enacted in 1990, many thought that the undue hardship defense would be hotly debated in the courts and by academics. And yet, the undue hardship defense is very rarely outcome determinative and has not been the subject of a significant piece of scholarship since the mid-1990s. This article takes a fresh look at the under-developed case law surrounding the undue hardship defense. From a data set of over 1,600 potential undue hardship cases, I identified only 120 that address undue hardship in depth. These cases reveal that cost — which both the statute and conventional wisdom suggest is the focus of the inquiry — plays only a minor role. Instead, these cases revealed three recurring themes: (1) courts often confuse or conflate the reasonable accommodation inquiry and the undue hardship defense; (2) whether an accommodation places burdens on other employees (what I call “special treatment stigma”) frequently is relevant to the undue hardship defense; and (3) the phenomenon of “withdrawn accommodations” often influences courts’ analysis of the undue hardship defense. These themes not only provide a deeper insight into the undue hardship defense, but also help to more broadly illuminate the scope of an employer’s obligation to provide reasonable accommodations.
Here's the abstract for Mixed Signals: What Can We Expect From the Supreme Court in This Post-ADA Amendments Act Era? (forthcoming Touro L. Rev.):
The ADA Amendments Act of 2008 was intended to breathe new life into the ADA after the courts, especially the Supreme Court, had drastically narrowed the ADA’s protected class. But since the ADA was amended in 2008, the Supreme Court has not decided any ADA cases. Thus, there are many ADA issues, especially in the employment context, that remain unresolved. This paper will attempt to determine whether we can expect a disability-friendly Supreme Court or whether the Court will once again narrowly construe individuals with disabilities’ rights under the ADA. In doing so, I have uncovered some mixed signals. On the one hand, the body of Tenth Circuit ADA cases decided by our newest jurist, Justice Gorsuch, suggests an anti-disability bent. On the other hand, one possible source of good news for individuals with disabilities are two recent IDEA Supreme Court cases decided in 2017: Fry v. Napoleon Community Schools and Endrew F. ex rel. Joseph F. v. Douglas County School Dist. RE-1. Both of these cases were very plaintiff-friendly and both were unanimous (the Fry case had a two-justice concurrence). But are these plaintiff-friendly cases signaling a disability-friendly Supreme Court? Or is the plaintiff-friendly outcome of these cases not because they involve individuals with disabilities but because they involve educating children? And if the latter is true, what can we expect from the Supreme Court if and when it decides the unresolved ADA employment issues? This paper will attempt to answer these questions.
Sunday, December 17, 2017
Thanks to Paul Harpur (TC Beirne - Queensland) for sending word of this disability case currently pending in Ohio:
On December 15, 2017, Denoewer, an adult individual with intellectual and developmental disabilities who is autistic, non-verbal, and epileptic, sued his employer of 7.5 years for disability discrimination and has joined his employer’s client claiming it was an accessory to the discrimination. The claim is available here.
Denoewer pleaded he experienced disability discrimination at the hands of his employer, Uco, a 501(c)(3) non-profit that exists to employ individuals with disabilities in a setting that is purportedly integrated (essentially a sheltered workshop). He contends that Uco breached the ADA and Ohio Rev. Code through treating him less favourably than workers without disabilities. He is seeking compensation for an amount between his actual rate of pay, and pay-related benefits, and the amounts earned and accrued by workers performing tasks that Denoewer was not permitted to perform, even though he claims he could complete, due to his impairment.
The aspect of this case which is novel is the move to sue Uco’s customer, HONDA of America MFG., Inc., for being an accessory to Uco’s disability discrimination. Honda’s accessorial liability is based upon 2 key grounds:
First Honda exercised significant economic power so as to ensure that UCO’s labor costs were lower than were lawfully possible.
Second, Honda’s specific production demands also determined which of UCO’s Production Associates would be permitted to work on the line. As a result, in some instances, non-disabled individuals were placed on the line instead of individuals with disabilities, such as Denoewer, in order to meet Honda’s specific demands.
As a consequence Denoewer is arguing that Honda aided and abetted UCO’s discriminatory conduct.
Wednesday, November 1, 2017
Congratulations to Paul Harpur (U. Queensland/Beirne Law) on the publication earlier this year by Cambridge University Press of his book Discrimination, Copyright & Inequality. The book analyses the interaction between anti-discrimination and copyright laws, in the international human rights and copyright jurisdictions, as well as in the national jurisdictions in Australia, Canada, the UK and USA. This work builds on international and domestic notions of digital equality and rights to access information. The core thesis of this monograph is that technology now creates the possibility that everyone in the world, regardless of their abilities or disabilities, should be able to access the written word.
Here's the publisher's description:
Wednesday, June 21, 2017
Sophie Mitra (Fordham Dep't Econ.) and Douglas Kruse (Rutgers - Management & Labor) have just published a significant new empirical study of the impact of disability on employment. The article is Are Workers with Disabilities More Likely to be Displaced?, and unfortunately their answer is "yes". The article is published at International Journal of Human Resource Management, Vol. 27(4), pp. 1550-1579, 2016; here's the abstract:
The literature on employment and disability has been relatively silent regarding the job loss experience of persons with disabilities. We document the gap in job displacement rates across disability status in the United States over the 2007–2013 period using data from the 2010, 2012 and 2014 Displaced Worker Supplements of the Current Population Survey. We find that men and women with disabilities are, respectively, 75 and 89% more likely to experience an involuntary job loss than men and women without disabilities in the United States over the 2007–2013 period, with gaps in displacement rates of eight and seven percentage points for men and women, respectively. A significant gap is found in most occupation-education subsamples. Using a logit decomposition, we find that differences in observable characteristics do not explain the gap in the job loss rate across disability status. Longitudinal tests following workers over a one-year period point to a causal effect of disability on the likelihood of displacement. While the disability gap may be due to unobservable characteristics, job mismatch and employer discrimination are also possible explanations, highlighting the potential importance of employer and public policies in improving the job security of workers with disabilities.
Wednesday, May 24, 2017
The call for papers for the annual Centre for Human Rights disability rights conference to be held 7-8 November 2017 at the University of Pretoria is now out on the Centres' website. The theme for the conference this year is Domesticating the CRPD in the African region: A focus on access to justice and legal capacity. Important dates:
- Deadline (Abstracts): 16 June 2017.
- Authors will be notified by: 26 June 2017 whether their abstract has been accepted.
- Deadline (Papers): 8 September 2017.
- Authors whose abstracts are accepted will be required to submit their full papers by 8 September 2017.
- Applicants will be notified by 30 September 2017 whether their application for funding has been accepted.
- Date of Conference: 7-8 November 2017.
Sunday, May 21, 2017
Christine Duffy (Senior Staff Attorney, ProBono Partnership, photo left) has provided this guest post on Blatt v. Cabela’s Retail, Inc.
Seventeen months after oral argument in Blatt v. Cabela’s Retail, Inc., No. 5:14-cv-04822-JFL (E.D. Pa., filed Aug. 15, 2014), Judge Joseph Leeson issued a six-page decision on whether a person suffering with gender dysphoria is covered by the ADA. Judge Leeson said “yes.” The opinion is at .
Judge Leeson agreed with the DOJ’s 11/16/15 Second Statement of Interest (SSOI), that the court should avoid the equal protection argument made by Blatt (and earlier by me in Chapter 16 of Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Discrimination in the Workplace: A Practical Guide). Sachin Pandya [previously] discusse[d] the DOJ’s SSOI.
Monday, April 24, 2017
Deborah Widiss (Indiana) has a new paper on SSRN (forthcoming in the UC Davis Law review): The Interaction of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act after Young v. UPS. From the abstract:
Pregnant women sometimes ask employers for accommodations – such as being able to sit on a stool or avoid heavy lifting – to permit them to work safely and productively. In 2015, in Young v. United Parcel Service, the Supreme Court held that the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) requires courts to scrutinize carefully denial of such requests. The facts in Young arose prior to the effective date of the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA); accordingly, the Court did not address how the ADAAA, which expanded the range of health conditions that qualify as disabilities, affects claims for accommodations under the PDA. This Article fills that gap, updating analysis from an earlier article I wrote on this subject to incorporate the Court’s holding in Young and to discuss how lower courts are applying Young.
The PDA mandates that pregnant employees be treated “the same” as other employees “similar in their ability or inability to work.” Young established that employees who receive accommodations pursuant to the ADA or workers’ compensation laws may be used as comparators in PDA analysis, rejecting lower court decisions to the contrary. The Court stated that evidence that an employer routinely accommodates other health conditions but refuses to provide support for pregnancy is strong circumstantial evidence of discriminatory bias.
The ADAAA magnifies the importance of this holding; it also largely resolves the Young Court’s concern that the PDA not be interpreted to confer a “‘most-favored-nation’ status” on pregnant employees. Under the ADAAA and its implementing regulations, employers must provide reasonable accommodations for impairments that substantially limit an individual’s ability to lift, bend, walk, or stand, even on a temporary basis. Thus workplace accommodations for health conditions that cause limitations like those caused by pregnancy should now be commonplace (and many conditions associated with pregnancy may qualify as disabilities themselves). Robust enforcement of the PDA’s “same treatment” mandate does not create a danger that pregnant employees will be treated better than other employees; rather, it helps ensure that pregnant employees are not consistently treated less well than other employees.
This is a great follow-up to Deborah's earlier work, and looks to be a good read.
Tuesday, April 11, 2017
In 2012, in Kloeckner v. Solis, the court appeared to resolve the question of the appropriate forum for federal civil-service employees appealing decisions of the Merit Systems Protection Board in “mixed cases” (cases alleging an adverse employment action that also violated a federal anti-discrimination statute), holding that those decisions must be challenged in federal district court. But in Perry v. Merit Systems Protection Board, to be argued April 17, the court returns to the issue to decide whether, as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit held, the answer is different when the MSPB rejects the employee’s claim for lack of jurisdiction because the adverse employment action is not appealable, rather than on the merits or on some procedural ground.
Wednesday, March 29, 2017
Camabridge University Press has just published, as part of the Cambridge Disability Law and Policy Series, Paul Harpur's (Queensland Law) Discrimination, Copyright and Equality: Opening the e-Book for the Print-Disabled. Here's the publisher's description:
- While equality laws operate to enable access to information, these laws have limited power over the overriding impact of market forces and copyright laws that focus on restricting access to information. Technology now creates opportunities for everyone in the world, regardless of their abilities or disabilities, to be able to access the written word – yet the print disabled are denied reading equality, and have their access to information limited by laws protecting the mainstream use and consumption of information. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the World Intellectual Property Organization's Marrakesh Treaty have swept in a new legal paradigm. This book contributes to disability rights scholarship, and builds on ideas of digital equality and rights to access in its analysis of domestic disability anti-discrimination, civil rights, human rights, constitutional rights, copyright and other equality measures that promote and hinder reading equality.
- A valuable resource for advocates, law makers, librarians and others who seek to reform laws, policies and practices that reduce reading equality.
- Provides a comparative analysis of how copyright and anti-discrimination laws interacts.
- Provides an in-depth analysis of advances in international and domestic laws.
Thursday, February 9, 2017
Paul Harpur's (Queensland) has been working recently on a cross-disciplinary project analysing the regulation of disability assistance animals/service animals in Australia, Canada, Ireland, the UK, and the U.S. Yesterday, he was interviewed on Australia's Channel 10. Though apparently the segment can't be viewed outside Australia, here's an excerpt from the interview.
What do a bird, a miniature horse, a cat and pig have in common with a guide dog? They’re all legal assistance animals…and it’s causing a headache for authorities.
Aged 11 years old and weighing in at around a kilo, Tiberius is a blue and gold Macaw and is much more than an exotic pet.
He is a lifeline for Alicia, who suffers complications from a chronic pain condition. "[Tiberius's] job is to monitor my heart and pain condition and warn me of incoming attacks."
Tiberius monitors her pulse for changes and Alicia says she can’t live without him. Twice, he has saved her life of an actual heart attack. “I was on the phone saying I’m going to have a heart attack. My service animal has sensed it and warned me. I got laughed at.”
As well as mockery, Alicia has had to contend with outright hostility from people not used to seeing a working disability parrot. “I’ve been escorted out, I’ve been demanded out, I’ve had people swearing at me, spit coming off them.”
While local and state laws prevent non-canines like Tiberius being used as assistance animals, federal laws don’t: and people are starting to cotton on .
When the act was passed in 1992 it used the term “disability assistance animals” and it’s always used the term “animals”. Back in the day 99% of animals were dogs so no one’s really noticed it. But with the growth of animal assisted therapy there is an increase in people wanting to bring other animals into public spaces.
And Federal laws also lack the strict training standard found in state laws. Individuals can train their own animals and associations that have nothing to do with disability can train animals. It’s a mess.
Professor Paul Harpur, who relies on a seeing eye dog, has studied the trend towards non-canines. He worries people are fraudulently claiming their pets as disability assistance animals.
It’s already a big issue in US: with turkeys, ducks, kangaroos and pigs turning up on planes and restaurants as “emotional support animals”. Transport authorities here [in Australia] have had to contend with a miniature horse approved for travel on Melbourne’s trams; as well as an assistance dingo, a “stress rabbit”, plus assistance cats, rats, birds and pigs.
Saturday, December 17, 2016
Paul Harpur (Queensland) writes to tell us that an Australian disability wage-setting tool has been found discriminatory, and that the Australian government has agreed to pay 9,735 intellectual disabled workers entitlements which may reach $100 million AUD. Here's Paul's analysis:
An Australian government disability wage setting tool used to assess the wages of intellectually disabled workers who were employed in an Australian Disability Enterprise (a form of government subsidized employment) resulted in people with certain disabilities being under paid.
The tool in question, the Business Services Wage Assessment Tool, was used to determine how much each worker should be paid and if they were entitled to wage increases.
It was alleged that the imposition of the condition or requirement that wages be fixed using the tool amounted to indirect disability discrimination within the meaning of s 6 of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth).
The tool fixed the amount of a wage by an assessment of competency and of productivity. The assessment of competency was made by reference to eight elements. Some of these competencies were irrelevant to the work actually undertaken by workers and the assessment processes relating to other competencies was flawed. The assessment processes used abstract answers in an interview situation with intellectually disabled workers. If workers did not provide a prescribed response they scored zero.
The Australian government accepted that this tool was discriminatory and has agreed to pay back wages for thousands of workers. The government introduced legislation to create a framework to repay wages in the Business Services Wage Assessment Tool Payment Scheme Act 2015 (Cth) (see also the Business Services Wage Assessment Tool Payment Scheme Bill 2014 (Cth) Explanatory Memorandum) and on 16 December 2016 the wage claims and discrimination claims by a class of 9,735 workers was approved by the Federal Court of Australia in Duval-Cowrie v Commonwealth of Australia (2016) FCA 1523. The length and size of these under payments are substantial and are estimated to cost the Australian government $100 million AUD.
Wednesday, November 2, 2016
If you have students writing on issues connected with disability and the law, please share with them this announcement (you can even post this flyer Download TJSL-CraneWritingCompetition-2017-d2) from our friend Susan Bisom-Rapp (Thomas Jefferson):
Thomas Jefferson School of law is pleased to announce the third Jameson Crane III Disability and the Law Writing Competition. Made possible by the generous gift of Thomas Jefferson School of Law alumnus Jameson Crane III, the Crane Writing Competition seeks to encourage outstanding student scholarship at the intersection of law and medicine, or law and the social sciences. The competition promotes an understanding of these topics, furthers the development of legal rights and protections, and improves the lives of those with disabilities.
The competition is open to currently enrolled law students, medical students, and doctoral candidates in related fields who attend an accredited graduate program of study in the United States. Submitted papers may be on any topic relating to disability law, including legal issues arising with respect to employment, government services and programs, public accommodations, education, higher education, housing, and health care.
Submissions will be judged anonymously by an independent panel of experts. The winner of the competition will receive a $1,500 cash prize and the Thomas Jefferson Law Review (TJLR) will consider the paper for publication under the TJLR’s editorial standards. Two second place winners will each receive a $1,000 cash prize. Preference for these additional winners will be given to submissions from disciplines not represented by the grand prize winner.
All submissions must be submitted electronically to: email@example.com. All entries must be received by midnight, Pacific Standard Time, January 15, 2017. Winning submissions will be announced by April 15, 2017.
For further details, please consult the competition webpage: http://www.tjsl.edu/cranewritingcompetition. Please distribute this information broadly so that we may reach as many eligible students as possible. Questions may be directed to Associate Dean and Professor Susan Bisom-Rapp, who will be coordinating the competition:firstname.lastname@example.org.
Friday, October 21, 2016
Speakers at a workshop in Queensland predict that employers Down Under could soon see a sharp increase in employee requests to bring service animals to the workplace. Per Disability assistance animals or not? Problems in policy and practice workshop: Summary and Scoping Discussion Paper, with Paul Harpur, Martie-Louise Verreynne, Nancy Pachana, Peter Billings and Brent Ritchie:
Employers of the one in every five Australians that have disabilities could face increasing demands to bring "assistance animals" such as dogs and miniature horses into the workplace, a workshop heard recently.
Speakers at the workshop on the issue at the Queensland Supreme Court on September 27 said that recent court rulings and an uncertain regulatory regime have made it difficult to determine or challenge whether a worker is entitled to bring such an animal to work.
Former disability discrimination commissioner Graeme Innes told the forum that four million Australians have disabilities that would give them protection under the Disability Discrimination Act.
Speakers at the workshop suggested while most of these people might not generally regard themselves as disabled, the existence of a medical condition usually enables such a person to assert they have a disability within the meaning of s4 of the Disability Discrimination Act.
They said it would be "relatively easy" for most of those people to claim an animal accompanying them was an assistance animal protected under section 9 of the Act, according to the chief investigator appointed by the workshop, Paul Harpur, a senior lecturer in the University of Queensland's TC Beirne School of Law.
A scoping paper circulated at the workshop – Disability animals or Not? Problems in policy and practice – said the Act defines assistance animals as those that are trained to help a person with a disability to alleviate the effects of their disability and to meet standards of hygiene and behaviour appropriate for an animal in a public place.
It said courts had interpreted the definition broadly to encompass "a self-trained dog that has not been accredited by a recognised disability training organisation".
Sunday, September 4, 2016
Sam Estreicher (NYU) has posted on SSRN his article Achieving Antidiscrimination Objectives through 'Safe Harbor' Rules. Kudos to Sam proposing something designed to create job opportunities for the heretofore nearly unemployable; I hope this helps move the discussion forward. Here's Sam's abstract:
This paper urges government agencies responsible for enforcing antidiscrimination laws to use existing authority to promulgate “safe harbor” rules to encourage employment of individuals who are unlikely to obtain employment because of the risks to employers of an erroneous hiring, coupled with the improbability of enforcement. Such perennially frustrated job seekers include individuals aged 65 and over, individuals with obvious disabilities whose employment entails significant accommodation costs, and individuals convicted of serious crimes.
Without detracting from traditional education and enforcement activities, the responsible administrative agencies should promulgate “safe harbors” for employers willing to hire individuals from these categories of high employment risk. The safe harbor would be in the form of a regulation, promulgated after notice and opportunity for public comment, that individuals from these categories may be hired as probationary employees for a defined, say three-year, period, during which they may be discharged without cause or consequence for the employer. (Other provisions of the antidiscrimination laws would be unchanged). If such employees are retained beyond the probationary period, they would be treated the same as other employees in all respects, including the full force of the antidiscrimination laws.
The benefit of the safe-harbor approach is that it directly addresses the concerns that motivate the employer’s non-hiring decision. The employer is given a relatively cost-free opportunity to evaluate whether engaging the employee from the high-risk category will in fact entail the predicted risks or whether an employee’s actual performance will belie the predicted concern.
This is a preliminary look at the potential benefits of a “safe harbor” approach to antidiscrimination goals. Creation of carefully cabined regulatory safe harbors for hiring employees from high-risk categories has the potential to spur improved utilization of such employees with limited harm to the moral force of the antidiscrimination regime.