Autism Speaks accused of disability discrimination

20 Jul

Michelle Diamond of Disability Scoop has this story: Autism Speaks accused of disability discrimination. The basic story appears to be this:

A single mother, unemployed, applied for a job as a walk director for Autism Speaks. After going through a long interview process she was offered the job. The day before starting she informed Autism Speaks that she needed some accommodation one day a week because of her autistic child– such as a shifted work day or day without pay. Autism Speaks, it is alleged, refused to make an accommodation, so the mother sought and found child care for the day. However, Autism Speaks rescinded the job offer anyway according to the complaint.

Per Disability Scoop:

In her suit, Greggs is seeking compensatory and punitive damages. Nonetheless, she said the legal action is not about money but principle for her. Once a supporter of Autism Speaks, Greggs said she is outraged.

“They say one thing and they do another,” the Upper Marlboro, Md. mom said of the nonprofit. “You can’t say that you’re for helping families with children with autism and then you can’t give me an accommodation.”

When I first heard of this I thought of a previous discussion about Autism Speaks where I noted that at one level it isn’t about who works in every job at Autism Speaks, it’s about getting the job done. That may be a good idea in theory, but examples such as this one, if true, would speak to the need to have members of the community (autistics and parents) throughput the organization.

Disability Scoop has a short quote (one can’t expect a detailed response with pending litigation) from Autism Speaks:

“Autism Speaks is committed to employing parents and other family members of people with autism, as well as individuals on the spectrum,” the organization said.

Again, the full story at Disability Scoop.

By Matt Carey

17 Responses to “Autism Speaks accused of disability discrimination”

  1. Yo-Yo July 20, 2012 at 16:21 #

    Autism Speaks are a bunch of anti-autistic scum, and this just proves the sort of disgusting elitism they have.

  2. lilady July 20, 2012 at 17:01 #

    I read about this lawsuit and I read the complete legal complaint, that was featured in an article on a “notorious anti-vaccine” website, yesterday. IMO, and acutely aware of the the ongoing animus directed toward Autism Speaks by the *journalists* of this website, it is just the latest example of “finding” and publishing a newly-filed lawsuit that smears anyone or any organization that is on their enemies list. There is no need for the *journalists* to offer commentary…they only need to publish their *finds* and throw it “out there” as fresh meat, for the scurrilous comments it generates.

    No, I am not a political operative for Autism Speaks…but I have a sense of fair play. Just what is the purpose of publicizing a lawsuit and the plaintiff’s complaint that alleges unfair hiring practices and violations of civil rights? As Sullivan mentions Autism Speaks is constrained about discussing a pending lawsuit…but there are no constraints for the plaintiff, her attorney…or the “notorious anti-vaccine” website to try this case, outside of the courtroom.

    It is interesting that Ms. Greggs claims to have gone through five pre-employment interviews, before a job offer letter was given to her. She did not, during any of those five pre-employment interviews “mention” that she had childcare responsibilities and would need special accomodations (a shortened work week with an adjustment to her salary or working at home on Wednesdays) to meet those responsibilities, yet she was able to quickly make other arrangements, once she realized that a prospective employee is on very shaky grounds to request a change in the job description/work hours.

    • Sullivan July 20, 2012 at 18:09 #

      ” Just what is the purpose of publicizing a lawsuit and the plaintiff’s complaint that alleges unfair hiring practices and violations of civil rights?”

      From my perspective–to discuss what is and what is not allowed and expected in an interview process. An employer can’t ask about religion, marital status, children (either present or planned for the future).

      Here is the job description for a walk manager

      Autism Speaks is the largest autism science and advocacy organization in the country, dedicated to funding biomedical research into the causes, prevention, treatment and cure for autism, and developing innovative new resources and services that enrich the lives of individuals with autism and their families. Come join us as a Walk/Events Manager, Northern NJ.

      Hours: Monday – Friday, 9am – 5pm

      Walk/Events Manager responsibilities include:
      Achieve the revenue goals for scheduled events that are assigned to this position.
      Work with supervisor to establish and implement planning timelines, income goals, expense budgets and participant recruitment strategies.
      Execute in partnership with volunteer leadership the Walk Now for Autism Speaks, specifically managing the Walk committee recruitment and retention.
      Work to achieve the Walk goals through practicing the Walk strategies identified in the business plan for the annual walk, including strategies regarding sponsorship, team recruitment and retention, media outreach, kickoff and a year-long communications plan.
      Locally implement global campaigns of Autism Speaks such as advocacy, national walk extensions, family services, community outreach and science.
      Manage the Walk Now for Autism Speaks day of event logistics and the year-long process of Walk administration, including but not limited to day of logistics, donation processing, acknowledgements, and materials management.
      Manage and provide administrative support to volunteer committees.
      Make presentations to businesses, organizations and community groups to recruit teams of walkers.
      Integrate social marketing initiatives, such as email blasts to volunteers, constituents and local community, creating fundraising websites primarily for the Walk, as well as other forms of social media outreach that will target potential walkers, donors, constituents who will help support our mission.
      The qualified candidate will possess a Bachelor’s degree or equivalent experience along with a minimum of 3 years’ experience in fundraising/special events. Experience working with volunteers is required. The individual we seek should possess strong analytical and organizational skills, be able to multi-task, good communication skills, customer service and sound judgment. Be proficient in MS Office including Excel and Outlook and database knowledge (Raiser’s Edge and/or Kintera preferred).

      Autism Speaks offers a competitive compensation package and the opportunity to help create a brighter future for children with autism and their families. The selected candidate must be able to successfully pass a comprehensive background check consisting of: credit/civil/criminal, references, motor vehicle, education, salary verification and drug screen. Qualified candidates may email a resume to: [Click Here to Email Your Resumé]

      For consideration, please provide salary requirements.

      No phone calls or agencies, please. Only those applicants who meet the hiring criteria will be considered and contacted by Human Resources. Autism Speaks is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

      The description does say 9-5 work hours. In the end, the mother says she was willing to work that schedule.

      So, there are two big questions on the table:

      1) Would changing work hours 1 day a week be a reasonable accommodation for this situation?

      2) Given that she said she was willing to meet the work week requirements, why was the offer rescinded?

      (2) is where Autism Speaks might face the first and strongest legal challenge.

      • lilady July 20, 2012 at 21:58 #

        @ Sullivan: I read the “complaint” made against Autism Speaks, an organization that I have absolutely no affiliation with…and no reason to defend that organization.

        Publicizing the details, in its entirety-including an allegation of a derogatory remark and an allegation of a threat made by an employee of Autism Speaks, serves only one purpose, IMHO…to smear and besmirch Autism Speaks. It is dirty, vile journalism…but typical of the tactics of that “notorious anti-vaccine website”.

        Let’s not forget that it is the opening “shot” of a plaintiff’s lawsuit that very well “might be” full of baseless allegations, and that we are not privy to the defendant’s denial of the allegations made in plaintiff’s complaint.

        BTW, that “notorious anti-vaccine website” has never, to my recollection, retracted an article or issued an apology, to those organizations or individuals, who, following a court decision, have been totally exonerated of misdeeds.

      • Sullivan July 20, 2012 at 22:36 #


        if I’m thinking of the same site as you, there was a thanksgiving article they put up that disappeared. I am aware of at least one more article that just went away. Never a mention nor an apology.

        They also outed the first name of Mr. 11’s son and corrected it after it was pointed out here. Again with no mention of the change nor any apology.

        That said, I do think this is a tough news item to write about. The decision of whether to write or not was not trivial. And may not have been the correct choice.

    • Anne July 21, 2012 at 03:35 #

      ‘but there are no constraints for the plaintiff, her attorney”

      The plaintiff doesn’t have an attorney, she’s representing herself pro se. She’s told her side of the story. Since she filed in federal court, the defendants’ responses will be available for us to read via PACER. I would expect the individual defendants to file motions to dismiss.

      It does seem odd to me that, if Ms. Greggs was set to start work on Monday, May 7, that she would wait to contact her employer until the day before – on Sunday – to tell them that she would need work hour accommodations. I have a feeling there is a lot more to the story than is revealed by the allegations in the plaintiff’s complaint.

      I don’t have a problem with Disability Scoop writing about the lawsuit. It’s public record. Nothing wrong with following along with a juicy piece of pending litigation, though I agree that the reportage from some quarters is likely to be both inaccurate and annoying.

      • Sullivan July 21, 2012 at 14:47 #

        Based on the lack of an attorney on the complaint (and the existence of a few needed corrections) I thought she was likely representing herself.

        I didn’t think to check the dates against the week. Giving notice of a potential accomodation on a Sunday is odd.

    • Yo-Yo July 22, 2012 at 20:17 #

      ‘No, I am not a political operative for Autism Speaks…but I have a sense of fair play’

      Ironic that you’re saying the woman that was for autism speaks before she was so rudely and uncaringly shoved aside by them and you have to instantly character assassinate her and the journal.

      Then you try to say that.

      It’s refuge in audacity. Come on, don’t kid us.

  3. lilady July 20, 2012 at 22:49 #

    @ Sullivan: Yes, I do recall the “disappearing” Thanksgiving picture and article and the boy’s name that was redacted. I never recall a “retraction” or an apology…or even a correction, when that same website has published articles that are derogatory in nature…or when a court exonerates an organization or an individual that one of their “journalists” excoriates.

    Truly the most yellow of yellow journalism.

  4. lilady July 20, 2012 at 22:54 #

    P.S. The Thanksgiving picture/article that disappeared and the boy’s name redaction, only happened because of the universal condemnations by science bloggers…not because the heartless editors had a *change of heart* (pun intended)

  5. lilady July 20, 2012 at 23:45 #

    @ Sullivan: Link fail.

    The exact quotes about that Thanksgiving picture, from one of the editors was…

    “we’re a BLOG” and that “it’s our job to be edgy.”

    How about the female editor and her coarse remark about a female doctor?

  6. Duncan Edwards July 21, 2012 at 21:19 #

    An org that should be trying to help bring people together shouldn’t do this.

  7. Anne August 4, 2012 at 06:14 #

    The defendants filed a motion to dismiss on July 30. I put a copy of it here:

    In this case I think the defendants have the better argument. If the facts are as Ms. Greggs has stated them, then AS acted in a morally repugnant way but there isn’t a legal claim. The motion will probably be granted with leave to amend to give Ms. Greggs a chance to state a claim.


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