An Employment Perspective: Ableism
KATE FIALKOWSKI 0:00
Hi, this is Kate Fialkowski with the Institute on Disabilities at Temple University. This is being recorded for the Dischange 20 symposium online. We're discussing combating implicit bias and this segment is about employment perspectives. I'm delighted to have Dynah Haubert, staff attorney with The Disability Rights Pennsylvania. Hi, Dynah. Thanks so much for being with us today.
DYNAH HAUBERT 0:26
Hi, thanks for having me.
KATE FIALKOWSKI 0:29
Well, I introduced you by your title, but I'm wondering, Dynah, would you care to share a little bit about your background?
DYNAH HAUBERT 0:39
Sure. So I've been in my role as a staff attorney for disability rights since I graduated law school in 2012. I went to law school with the goal of working in disability rights.
I am disabled and before my involvement legally with disability rights, I considered myself a disabilty rights/disability justice advocate.
KATE FIALKOWSKI 1:18
Hey, I'd love to ask you a question. So I love that you were not saying disability rights advocate but you changed it to Disability Justice advocate. So, so tell us a little bit more about that. That's an important word.
DYNAH HAUBERT 1:40
Yeah. So Disability Justice is a way of thinking about disability rights and organizing around it that is intersectional and recognizes that it is disability is not it's not...recognizes that disability is not. It does not exist in a vacuum and is impacted by other identities that we have.
And so Disability Justice looks at disability and the rights of disabled from a different and sort of broader standpoint.
KATE FIALKOWSKI 2:44
So with your perspective from, you know on Disability Justice. Why are you interested in this topic about bias and bias and employment
DYNAH HAUBERT 2:59
So I think that it is often thought or at least used to often be thought that discrimination including typically disability and employment discrimination was usually the result of exclusive and conscious negative attitudes.
But more of it, then it was ever realized. I think is due to more unconscious implicit bias. And I think Disability Justice provides a good framework that.
KATE FIALKOWSKI 3:59
You know why I've always thought that the when we have employment conversations, I've always thought that we have such an emphasis, and rightly, but we place an emphasis on those things like accommodations, rather than on attitudes and behaviors.
DYNAH HAUBERT 4:25
Yeah, yeah. You're right. As an attorney who advises people on disability rights issues, I see a lot of cases where it's not. Like you said that someone is seeking specific accommodation necessarily, but they feel that their employer has an negative bias, against them, and that is impacting the job, the environment and their ability to do their job. And that is definition prevalent.
KATE FIALKOWSKI 5:12
Now this symposium isn't all about the Americans with Disabilities Act. But related to that, I think it's probably important to mention the Americans with Disabilities Act. Could you give us just a little overview, there's, you know, there's a lot of people who don't know anything about it, so maybe we should just mention it.
DYNAH HAUBERT 5:38
Sure. So, the Americans with Disabilities Act or the ABA is a very broad disabilities civil rights law originally in 1990 that For him his disability discrimination in a wide variety of settings. And part of the ABA is about employment. That's definitely an important part of the conversation when talking about bias.
KATE FIALKOWSKI 6:24
Is there anything in the Americans with Disabilities Act that really touches on the idea of bias?
DYNAH HAUBERT 6:36
in terms of employment, one specific provision that gets at this issue uniquely, is the prong of the definition of disability. Where someone needs to only show that they're regarded as having a disability, and that their employer has subjected them to prohibited employment action because of the perception of that impairment.
And that is important that giving up this bias idea because it doesn't actually get to what the person can or cannot do or is or is not doing the job. But it's more about what the employer is perceiving. And, as we've discussed, that can employers perspective can easily be impacted by bias about disability.
And so it's really important that somebody can have a legal claim that discrimination that occurred on the basis of them being regarded as having a disability, whether or not they actually do.
KATE FIALKOWSKI 8:24
It's really fascinating to me, because I don't know, I'm not a lawyer. I don't profess to be a lawyer. But I really don't know any other place in law where there is an operational definition like this. This this is seems to be very unique to me.
DYNAH HAUBERT 8:44
Yeah, you know, it actually can encompass people who do have disabilities that would otherwise fall under the ABA definition. It It just makes it easier in some ways for that person to make out a claim of discrimination. Because again, they don't need to show that they need the the other requirements of the definition of disability under the ABA, and it doesn't involve with say anything that they're doing on the job, but that their employer regarded them as or thought that they had a disability and acted a certain way as a result probably unique in the law. Two, very good,
KATE FIALKOWSKI 10:04
You mentioned you know, we talked about bias and then we're really moving towards discrimination. So is there a tipping point on that spectrum? Where is the difference and what does it matter?
DYNAH HAUBERT 10:27
Now, I think that it's really hard to articulate the next point along the spectrum. Discrimination that is, by the ABA have a specific definition and several definitions that can look like many things. And so you know, I'm not going to get into that but I think that those generally touch on the idea of bias, not just being something that the employer thinks and the manages to not have affect their actions towards their employees. I think any sort of legally prohibited discrimination that results from bias is gonna involve an action that is the negative towards the employee.
And, you know, because we're talking about implicit bias, it may not be the case that the employer even, you know, thinks or says, Oh, I took the action because of this person's disability, but it certainly made It just be the stereotype or a preconception that sampler. More generally. I'm not sure that bias and discrimination aren't the same thing. I think in stepping away from discrimination as a legal term, I think that a lot of what I talked about and what we in the communities, talk about as bias and as discrimination are often the same thing.
KATE FIALKOWSKI 12:50
That's really, that's really interesting. Um What would you say to a person. Let me phrase this differently.
What should I do about my bias?
I mean, because everybody has has biases, right? And it sounds like this can go somewhere positive and it can go somewhere negative. So, you know, um, let's say that I'm a person listening to this interview. And I'm really starting to think about this and to think about my biases. I don't know what what should I do or how can I check myself on this?
DYNAH HAUBERT 13:42
I think a very important part of that is simply acknowledging that that you do have these biases are you definitely I mean everybody, I think biases as result of being human. It's just some people have interrogated them, and emerge on them more than others. So I think acknowledging that implicit bias exists and is a thing that you hold and is important to try and uncover and think more about. I think that's really important.
KATE FIALKOWSKI 14:37
Thank you very much. Um, I want to, or we're almost at the end of our time, and I want to have time to switch gears for a second. If, if I can, um, you know, we are in some really unprecedented times. And as a lawyer and advocate and a person who really has a passion for Disability Justice, can you give us something to hold on to in this time of uncertainty?
DYNAH HAUBERT 15:17
So I'm actually going borrow heavily from a friend who I was just talking about this with and we talked a lot about how disability and Disability Justice and disability community their relationship that has to everything that is going on right now. And so I'm going to borrow from her and she reminded me that this is such an important moment to think about some Disability Justice principles like centering and interdependence and collective action that is going to get us through this. This is not necessarily about top down leadership by relying on each other and supporting each other and helping each other to act. That is going to sustain us.
KATE FIALKOWSKI 16:49
Thank you very much. I guess I'd like to repeat a couple things that you said and see if you have anything to add. So some, you know, some summarizing thoughts also are for people when they're listening to this to really acknowledge that we all have biases and to start to think about that and to try to excavate it or uncover it a little. And at this time, in this particular unique time in the universe, we need to be centered on interdependency and collective action. And, you know, people in the disability community understand this and can maybe even be leaders at this moment in time.
DYNAH HAUBERT 17:43
Absolutely, yeah. You summed it up very well.
KATE FIALKOWSKI 17:47
Would you like to add anything?
DYNAH HAUBERT 17:51
I wouldn't. I like the bit that I think you added because I don't know if I explicitly said it and so I appreciate that you did. Which is that disabled folks are the leaders that are should be acknowledges some leaders in this.
I think that that is really important. And I think we should all remember that right now.
KATE FIALKOWSKI 18:25
Well, you certainly are a Disability Justice leader. And I'm hoping that by I'm hoping that by people listening to this audio that, you know, everybody can do a little thinking reach out to other people. And, you know, think twice about the biases that we have, because they can have very important implications not only in employment, but in this window of time where we are today. So I want to thank you so much for your time. And yeah, just making this happen. I really appreciate it. Dynah
DYNAH HAUBERT 19:07
You are quite welcome. And I thank you so much for getting this all together.
KATE FIALKOWSKI 19:13
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
Dynah Haubert, Staff Attorney, Disability Rights Pennsylvania (DRP). More about DRP's Employment Resources
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