Podcast Ep. 45 – Overt Discrimination in the Workplace: Disability and the Law

Sep 22, 2020

In this episode of The Forum Podcast, Ashley Oolman (Lifeworks) leads listeners through a discussion about how disability status may not be as protected as other classes in the workplace.

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Though there are laws dating back to 1938 ensuring access to resources, employment, and equal rights, people with disabilities experience discrimination in overt and profound ways especially when contrasted with other protected classes. From interviewing and hiring programs to disclosure and accommodations, explore how you and your organization can put an end to common practices continuing to have a disproportionate and discriminatory impact on employees with disabilities right in front of us.

Learning Outcomes
  • Contrast scenarios with other protected classes to examine the pervasive issue of disability discrimination
  • Examine existing laws in place to prevent cycles of unemployment and poverty amongst the disability community
  • Review best practices and common etiquette to ensure disability inclusion
Episode Resources

Handout – Overt Discrimination in the Workplace Questions and Resources

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Overt Discrimination in the Workplace- Disability and the Law

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Benjamin Rue: [00:01:27] Hello and thank you for joining us for today’s podcast, Overt Discrimination in the Workplace with Ashley Oolman – she,her – of LifeWorks and Allied Folk.

[00:01:37] This session will lead listeners through a discussion about how disability status may not be as protective as other classes in the workplace, though, there are laws dating back to 1938, ensuring access to resources, employment, and equal rights. People with disabilities experience discrimination in overt and profound ways, especially when contrasted with other protected classes.

[00:02:02] From interviewing and hiring programs to disclosure and accommodations explore how you and your organization can put an end to common practices, continuing to have a disportionant and discriminatory impact on employees with disabilities right in front of us.

[00:02:17] This podcast we’ll contrast scenarios with other protected classes to examine the pervasive issue of disability discrimination. Examine existing laws in place to prevent cycles of unemployment and poverty amongst the disability community and review best practices and common etiquette to ensure disability inclusion.

[00:02:39] Ashley Oolman, disability inclusion manager at LifeWorks, and also founder and inclusion consultant of Allied Folk guides, partners through evidence-based best practices, product development  and progressive thought leadership. From large corporations to individual allies. She transforms strategic business initiatives and advances equitable community spaces. With more than a decade of leadership experience and advocacy, employment, and workplace culture. She understands how to navigate complex environments and provide actionable insights for growth.

[00:03:12] Ashley strives to advance community equity through her contributions on collective impact task force and serves on a coalition of providers supporting transracially, adopted youth to reinforce their development of positive black identity and in her free time, she enjoys creating space to coach local parents on inclusive parenting, including children and critical conversations.

[00:03:37] Ashley gained an MBA with a concentration on human resource management, a BA in psychology with a minor in human development and family studies and a certification in organizational diversity and inclusion. Most recently, Ashley was elected as a Josie R Johnson Leadership Academy fellow and completed the YWCA’s Racial Justice Facilitator program.

[00:04:03] She has committed to inclusion as a means to advance human rights for all people in all walks of life.

[00:04:11] Ashley Oolman: [00:04:11] Well, hello listeners. And thank you so much for joining me today. As Ben mentioned, my name is Ashley. I identify with she, her pronouns and I am a black neurodivergent woman from Minneapolis, Minnesota.

[00:04:23] My professional journey with a learning disability and the ways in which my mind interacts with the world around me is one of the reasons why I am so passionate about this topic. I know firsthand what it feels like to be misunderstood, underestimated, and counted out. And for that reason, I hope I’m able to make this message connect with you all on a personal level, too.

[00:04:43] The topic of this episode is disability employment law through exploration of compliance and how inclusion goes beyond policy. Together we’ll uncover some of the ways ableism shows up on the job before the end of our time. We’ll contrast scenarios with other protected classes to examine the pervasive issue of disability discrimination.  Examine existing laws in place to prevent cycles of unemployment and poverty amongst the disability community and review best practices and common actions to ensure disability inclusion.

[00:05:16] My goal is that every listener will leave feeling determined to uproot problematic areas in their own workplace to end the legacy of ableism and disability based discrimination.

[00:05:26] So to kick it off, let’s begin with reflection. I’m going to ask you a few questions. These are about you and your experiences in the workplace. Say your answers out loud, if you can.

[00:05:37] First, have you ever worked with a colleague with a disability?

[00:05:43] Have you ever had a supervisor with a disability?

[00:05:47] Do you know about accessibility at your workplace?

[00:05:50] And last, do colleagues talk openly about their disabilities at work?

[00:05:56] These are all important to note because they are questions that start to unravel the degree to which ableism has permeated our own workplace. How many questions were you able to answer? Yes. More critical to consider is what is happening to cause so many of us to answer no to working with, or being supervised by people with disabilities.

[00:06:18] And then digging in even farther. Isn’t it strange that we don’t often think or talk about disabilities on a consistent basis, considering that one in four US citizens have a disability. By the way, in case you weren’t aware that one in four stat includes apparent and non-apparent disabilities, such as depression, ADHD, and chronic health conditions.

[00:06:41] Benjamin Rue: [00:06:41] Thank you so much, Ashley. It’s so important to take time for reflection before beginning an important conversation, especially one on something that affects so many people, myself included, you know, with  non-apparent disability myself. Can you talk a little more about some problematic ways that discrimination or inaccessibility impacts people’s lives?

[00:07:04] Ashley Oolman: [00:07:04] Absolutely. So simply stated there are tremendous gaps in the landscape of disability employment. For example, taken from data gathered nationwide in 2018 for the American community survey. These are some of their staggering findings for education attainment. 15% of people with disabilities have a BA or higher bachelor’s degree. Or higher compared to 30% of people without disabilities.

[00:07:31] In the area of employment. 37% of people with disabilities are employed versus people without disabilities who are employed at a rate of 80%. The average household income is $46,900 per year, for people with disabilities versus $74,400 per year for people without.

[00:07:51] Benjamin Rue: [00:07:51] Wow.

[00:07:52] Ashley Oolman: [00:07:52] I know. I know. And then finally, regarding poverty, 26% of people with disabilities live below the poverty line versus only 10% of people without.

[00:08:03] So to recap, people without disabilities are two times more likely to attend college. And two times as likely to be employed on the flip side, people with disabilities make approximately $28,000 less per year, and are more than two times as likely to live below the poverty line.

[00:08:24] So likely, Ben, you find the data as upsetting as I do. And I can promise that the more you dig, the more you’d find. For me of the hardest hitting notions,  attitudinal bias is the highest reported and most significant barrier to obtaining employment. So to be clear, not a person’s real or perceived limitations, but what other people think of them?

[00:08:46] Benjamin Rue: [00:08:46] Wow, you’re right. That, I mean, that is really upsetting data like mindblowing, but how’s that how’s this even possible. I know, I know there are laws in place to prevent this. Can you give an overview?

[00:08:59] Ashley Oolman: [00:08:59] Yeah, of course, let’s review a quick list of disability, employment laws in place that are intended to protect the rights of Americans with disabilities and ensure equal opportunity. So I only pulled three. There are quite a few, but some of, some of the most notable are the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability and programs conducted by federal agencies and programs receiving federal financial assistance in federal employment and in employment practices of federal contractors.

[00:09:35] The next one, which just actually had an anniversary 30 year anniversary this year is the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and that is a civil rights law prohibiting discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools transportation and all public and private places open to the general public.

[00:09:59] And then we also have The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014, which is designed to strengthen and improve our nation’s public workforce system and help get Americans, including youth and those with significant barriers to employment, into high quality jobs and careers that help employers retain and hire skilled workers.

[00:10:21] So, you know, really this legacy of significant legislation yet on the employment side, we have this trail of noncompliance. By reviewing a timeline of disability discrimination charges filed each year. You would find between just 2010 and 2018, there was an average of 25-28,000 cases annually.

[00:10:44] So in less than 10 years, there were a quarter of a million disability discrimination cases alone

[00:10:50] Benjamin Rue: [00:10:50] With that bleak of a picture, it’s even more important to know how this shows up in everyday interactions as well. Can give our listeners an overview of that and some examples of real life scenarios.

[00:11:03] Ashley Oolman: [00:11:03] Yes. Absolutely. Thank you for asking.

[00:11:05] So we know that law forbids discriminate when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoffs, training, fringe benefits, and any other term or condition of employment.

[00:11:21]We also know that it’s illegal to harass an applicant or employee because of they have a disability, had a disability in the past or is even believed to have a physical or mental impairment that is, that is not transitory and minor.

[00:11:35] So despite all that, Ben, disability discrimination totally shows up at work.

[00:11:40] Here are a few of those real life scenarios to help illustrate how.

[00:11:44] First up is restroom restriction, it’s a common  occurrence, if you dig  back into EEOC complaints and cases like that, that have been filed. It’s essentially telling employees they can’t relieve themselves when they need to, or refusing employees to take a break.

[00:12:02]Our first case to review is from 2017 in Kentucky, when an Amazon call center employee asked managers for flexibility in the company’s break schedule. Essentially he needed to accommodate bathroom needs stemming from Crohn’s disease, which is a painful chronic and unpredictable inflammatory bowel condition. Instead of giving him those breaks, the supervisor accused him of stealing time and he was fired.

[00:12:28] So I want to, in addition to just, you know, acknowledging that that is, an occurrence that is happening, and acknowledging, you know, that specific instance. I want to now pause for a moment and just do a comparison with another protected class. Can you imagine if an older employee, protected by law based on age, was accused of stealing time for needing to take frequent or sporadic bathroom breaks?

[00:12:51] Benjamin Rue: [00:12:51] No, of course not.

[00:12:53] Ashley Oolman: [00:12:53] I know it’s so it’s just kind of wild to when we pause for a moment and think about, you know, essentially the same laws that protect all protected classes and kind of how we interpret them differently based on the person or the situation, especially with the lens of disability inclusion.

[00:13:10] The next violation is career suppression, which is limiting employees right to work or advance in their career based on their disability. So our next case is from the year 2000, it happened in Wisconsin and the EEOC brought a suit against Chuck E Cheese, following unsuccessful efforts to resolve the case through conciliation.

[00:13:32] The lawsuit was filed in federal court based on an administrative finding that a regional manager fired an employee from his job as a janitor. After speaking that Chucky, excuse me, after stating that the employee did not hire quote, “those kinds of people.” The firing took place, despite the vigorous protest of the restaurant’s manager, who was the employee’s immediate supervisor.

[00:13:56] So again, a little comparison. Can, can you imagine a regional manager using that same phrase and taking the same action? Let’s say against a BiPOC employee in the year 2000.

[00:14:10] Benjamin Rue: [00:14:10] Yeah. I mean, it seems crazy, but look where we are.

[00:14:15] Ashley Oolman: [00:14:15] It’s kind of like the, I think that’s part of why I became so fascinated with this topic of kind of the compare and contrast with protected class. And, you know, the use of let’s say it’s derogatory language or, or whatever it might be. It’s really fascinating when you start to kind of unpack and unravel some of the social, you know, the social norms. Those social, things that we’ve adhered to. So of course, you know, using, let’s say racial slurs or saying if, if we were talking about a BiPOC employee and we said, you know, we don’t hire air quotes, those kinds of people.

[00:14:47]I think we both. Can agree that that would be absolutely like unheard of unimaginable almost. With employees with disabilities, or let’s say, people who are seeking employment with disabilities. It’s a really common phrase. I’ve heard it myself in some of the non-profit work that I’ve done. You know, hearing employers say, well, we don’t really have those types of jobs, and that’s a totally loaded, a totally loaded phrase.

[00:15:10] Oh yeah, all this microagression.

[00:15:13] Oh, Absolutely, I totally agree. So moving into our third workplace scenario is accommodation denial, a common response hiring managers engage in when discussing the notion of hiring a person with a disability is speculating on the person’s disability to get the job done or denying employee’s need for an accommodation.

[00:15:35] So case in point in 2015, here in Minnesota, an employee requested a larger monitor at the cash register to accommodate vision issues she had related to diabetes, but she was simply sent home and her hours were reduced. Bath &  Body Works corporate human resources department was contacted by the employee, but did not try to provide the larger monitor.

[00:15:59] Instead, the store manager bought a cheap magnifying glass and humiliated the employee by presenting it to her in front of her coworkers. And it, you know, the thing about that one too, is that, you know, when we, when we think about the right to disclose, you know, it’s really up to each individual person/employee with a disability to make that decision for themselves, whether or not they are comfortable with disclosing, they feel it’s necessary or, you know, simply they want to talk about that part of their identity at work. So of course, you know, we’re violating that person’s rights. To decide to disclose, but then digging further because in this case, you know, it’s, it’s about, Her health essentially. So we’ve also got protected health information, essentially being disclosed by the, by the manager’s behavior as well.

[00:16:51] So quick comparison. Can, can you imagine a pregnant employee experiencing multiple changes to their body, essentially asking for a tool to ensure they can perform their job well?  Only to be mocked for needing support based on the changes to their body.

[00:17:06]Of course not.

[00:17:08] NO, It’s like. It’s you know, this started as a project and since then, I have to be honest with you, Ben, it’s turned into this fascination with, you know, how can we essentially have a law or multiple laws, you know, protecting the rights of, of employees and who they are and who they bring, you know, to work. And we, we say statements as you know, D E and I leaders about how we want people to bring their whole selves to work. And we want. You know, people that feel like they belong at work, but I think it’s really, really important for us to understand how much nuance there is in essentially like the everyone’s at the workplace or within the workforces ability to adhere to those norms or to, you know, uphold those beliefs or those kind of mantras. Depending on the employee that we’re talking about.

[00:17:58] So my final scenario is about workplace bullying. And this is going, this is going to talk about how people with disabilities report, workplace bullying at a much higher rate than colleagues without disabilities. And before I move into this last example, I do want to give, the listeners a content warning.

[00:18:18] The repeated behavior that took place in this scenario is harmful and truly does show no regard for the employees dignity. So with that said, the case is from 2014 in Michigan, Herbruck hired a line worker who also has ADD and Tourette syndrome. The employee was harassed by her supervisor and coworkers because of her ADD and Tourettes. They referred to her by using several names and mocked the employees tourettes by biting their tongues and making exaggerated head movements.

[00:18:52] The employee complaint, of course, and rightfully so to her supervisor and to human resources as well. After doing so, unfortunately, the supervisors, mockery intensified, they th that person sped up the conveyor line where she worked to make her her job more difficult, began to follow the employee during bathroom breaks. Began to time the, the person’s bathroom breaks and berated the employee for wasting time.

[00:19:21] Benjamin Rue: [00:19:21] Just awful.

[00:19:22] Ashley Oolman: [00:19:22] I know and the really unfortunate thing is it gets, it actually gets worse. So the supervisor eventually followed that employee into the bathroom and was waiting as she exited the stall, which to me is just absolutely unimaginable, you know,

[00:19:37] High school mean girl bullying.

[00:19:39] Absolutely. Absolutely. The supervisor then began to shout that the person or the, that the employee person needed to sign a disciplinary write-up and started jabbing their finger in that employee’s face. So can you, I mean, I really can’t imagine, you know, having my supervisor follow me into a private space, like the bathroom, and then, you know, as I’m trying to navigate my way to the sink to wash my hands, you know, they’re, they’re hollering at me in a way that I would, I would go as far to say likely make me feel physically unsafe at that point. yeah. And then, you know, to say like, you need to sign this. It’s like, okay, that’s really inappropriate. So then what happened,  is that the employee fled the situation because of course I’m sure that they didn’t feel, you know, very safe as that situation was escalating. And as everyone can imagine, they reported the incident to the human resources rep. Get this, the human resources representative told the employee that she could not be transferred to another position. And that nothing could be done to address her concerns until she returned to her shift. So basically what happened in the end was because of the intolerable working conditions, the employee just resigned and that day

[00:20:55] Benjamin Rue: [00:20:55] That’s so just heartbreaking.

[00:20:57] Ashley Oolman: [00:20:57] I know. And the thing for me, Ben, is that it’s 2014, right? Like we’re not talking about, you know, I don’t know, 30 years ago or 40 50 years ago. I mean, this is like really, really, I mean, really, really recent. So, so in 2014, the culture in this workplace was so fractured that this employee who simply just wanted to work was treated as though their value was absolutely meaningless.

[00:21:23] This example, obviously it doesn’t really need a comparison to point out how drastic drastic the allegations are or how overt the discrimination was. So instead on this one, I would like to ask Ben, you and the listeners to ponder this. How long do we think it took for the workplace culture to get to a place where this behavior was accepted at so many levels within the organization? And then further if harassment to that degree was acceptable. I’m also curious how many less agregious violations were occurring that essentially led up to something, you know, this, this catastrophic.

[00:22:03] Benjamin Rue: [00:22:03] I, yeah, I can’t imagine it’s it’s mind boggling. It’s baffling. I it’s just so sad. I am. There’s nothing to compare it to.There’s no comparison. Like you said, nothing like this would happen to any other protected group in the workplace.

[00:22:21] Ashley Oolman: [00:22:21] I know and, Oh, sorry, go ahead, Ben.

[00:22:24] Benjamin Rue: [00:22:24] I was just gonna say it, not even though this was, you know, six years ago now, but it’s still very recent. It’s still just a heartbreaking.

[00:22:31] Ashley Oolman: [00:22:31] Absolutely. I think the thing that, that, I don’t know, something that kind of like came to mind as I was reading through that case in particular was again, you know, when we go back to the stats and the data, it takes people oftentimes. a longer time to get employed or to receive job offers because of disability, you know, discrimination and bias barriers, just, just upon entry. And so, you know, again, as a person, myself with an unseen or non apparent disability, you know, it’s just, it’s so. And this particular scenario, the employee in addition to Tourette’s was neurodivergent like myself as well. So it’s like, I, on some levels I can relate and it’s it’s, I just can’t imagine, you know, after getting employed and of course we all have been there right. Where we get a new job and we’re like, Hazzah, I made it!  You know, I’ve got to, to kind of be met with that type of, bullying. And I would go as far to say, I mean, like workplace abuse, you know, that’s, that’s pretty, pretty catastrophic.

[00:23:34] Benjamin Rue: [00:23:34] So, I mean, following someone into the bathroom, that’s I that’s, I mean, it’s just so overwhelming to dig into just how disability discrimination shows up. Even though there are laws in place to prevent this, like, how does this cycle continue?

[00:23:49] Ashley Oolman: [00:23:49] Yeah. So though, a person can take steps to fight for their rights under the ADA, a person must first take, what’s make what’s called a prima facie case. So in this type of suit, like a disability discrimination suit, prima fasci is referring to the evidence the employee must present to move the case forward. So what that means is that the burden of proof is with the employee to prove discrimination, took place in order for something to progress.

[00:24:19] Benjamin Rue: [00:24:19] Wow.

[00:24:20] Ashley Oolman: [00:24:20] Yeah. And that, I mean, that’s not uncommon. There are, you know, that type of scenario is common in a lot of different cases. But I think that the more important thing I think. Is for us to pause and just kind of reflect, you know, let’s say you’re a person who you’re, let’s say you are the person that was in any of those scenarios that we talked through, you know, after you’ve experienced something like that, how, how much energy and how exhausting, you know, and how, how much, how much, you know, do you decide to put yourself through, to seek justice? And, you know, I think a lot of us, myself included. I could totally see myself just wanting to put it behind me because it was so traumatizing. And so, you know, that burden of proof in a scenario like that is pretty intense.

[00:25:04] Benjamin Rue: [00:25:04] That’s a really strong person to, after dealing with something like that to them. Try to continue it.

[00:25:11] Ashley Oolman: [00:25:11] Absolutely. Absolutely. I want to close this section with a critical topic. it’s a good time to talk again a little bit more about disclosure. So according to the Harvard business review, only 39% of employees with disabilities disclose that with their employer based on the cases that we just reviewed. I think we can begin to draw our own conclusions as to why a person may not want to disclose their disability at work.

[00:25:39] Remember, one of the most significant barriers to employment that is reported is what non-disabled people think, believe and how they act towards people with disabilities.

[00:25:50] Benjamin Rue: [00:25:50] That is such an amazing point. I know I struggled, with deciding on when and how to disclose it to my, to my, to the team, even though I have the best team in the world, it’s still very difficult. Something to feel difficult with to come forward to about, but I’m very glad I did. And they’ve been extremely supportive and I mean, I know I’m very fortunate, so thank you Forum.  But I also want to encourage any, you know, those with unseen disabilities, or you have to just. It helps so much. Much like coming out.

[00:26:22] Ashley Oolman: [00:26:22] I agree. I totally agree. And it’s like the interesting thing I think about it. and, and something that I would like the listeners to kind of sit with and take with them is what is our role in creating that climate? Right. For employees to feel like coming out or disclosing or however, you know, they view that moment, as something that will be received well and positive, you know, and, and, and celebrated, you know, I, I think one of the biggest things that I think we talk about a lot and can apply in this, in this type of situation is, you know, how do we. How do we make it beyond, you know, acceptable? How do we make it, celebrated and how do we, you know, kind of like calibrate our meetings and our trainings, you know, in our team culture to create that space for disabled employees to feel like not only they can be, you know, just be space, but also like lean into some of the ways in which the disabled, you know, parts of their identity and like the things, the ways that they have interacted with with having a disability, like bringing that innovation and that like tenacity and that like creative thinking and all of those things, should be, I think, you know, celebrated and, and really like incorporate it into the work that we do.

[00:27:37] Benjamin Rue: [00:27:37] Well that, statement, Perfectly leaned into my next question, which is gonna, sadly have to be one of the final ones as we begin to wind things down. But as you know, the, the theme of our 33rd annual conference in 2021 is Workplace Revolution from talk to collective action in that spirit. What can our listeners do, do moving forward?

[00:28:00] Ashley Oolman: [00:28:00] Oh, such a great question. Well, first, I’m going to answer your question with a question for listeners. So listeners, I guess it’s a rhetorical question.

[00:28:09] How are you doing, with all of that, that we just talked through, you might be feeling disbelief, confusion, maybe even disgust. The good news is there are quite a few. Quite a few things that we can do. And so I’ll talk about what, what that is and how we can really start to make our mark and disrupt that pattern of discriminatory policies and practices.

[00:28:30] So a quick breakdown, easy do’s and don’ts in the area of workplace culture to ensure belonging. So first let’s start off with the shoulds. You should recognize disability as the intersectional community/identity that it is. Create an environment that’s supportive of human variation in general and ensure that everyone’s success is a priority.

[00:28:54] So no more of that kind of like if you’ve heard the 80/20 rule kind of a thing, like we want to, we want to shoot for all, you know what I mean? We wanna, we wanna aim for everyone being able to be successful and, and, you know, thrive in the workplace. Yes.

[00:29:09] And then on the flip side, the should nots or the don’ts don’t use fluffy language, that, that essentially, makes it comfortable for non-disabled people to use.

[00:29:20] So an example of that would be like, Special, you know, special abilities or, you know, we hear all sorts of yeah. Terminology and you know, that’s not too, that’s not too, like downplay, you know, the, the intentions of why groups like that, or, or labels like that. Right. Or groups like that might be. In existence.

[00:29:40] But I think the, the really important question, if, if you work in a place that has something like that happening, or, or in place who created that label, was it people/employees with disabilities themselves or was it non-disabled employees that created, you know, essentially created that fluffy, more comfortable terminology, which is essentially like, it’s a signal that you’re not comfortable yet to talk about disabilities and having disabilities exist at work.

[00:30:07]A couple more don’ts. Don’t separate working space or assignments based on ability. So for example, like all of, all of your employees, let’s say it is with an apparent or seen disability leave, it should not be in a specific place or, you know, back to the comment I made earlier about “that kind of work” air quotes, you know, type of, don’t have that type of work only be for certain types of people.

[00:30:33] You know, it shouldn’t be, there shouldn’t be jobs or titles or tasks based on, you know, people’s ability or disability. and then another, the last don’t that I have for today is don’t ask people assumptive questions about their disabilities. So like avoid saying awkward or inappropriate things like, Oh, like did something bad happened? Was that an accident? You know? I suppose having ADHD, it’s like really hard, you know, to concentrate. It’s like, those are that’s, that’s really not something it’s not the employee or your colleague’s job to inform you. That’s totally something we can Google, you know? So, yeah, those would be some of my don’ts.

[00:31:12] And then remember those four questions that we reflected on at the beginning. Here are a few tactical things that listeners can do that are targeting those areas that I was getting at.

[00:31:22] So the first question was, have you ever worked with a colleague with a disability? So going back, if you answered no check in with your workplace about your recruiting and your hiring practices and policies.

[00:31:35] For the next question. Have you ever had a supervisor with a disability if you answered? No. Similarly, check in with your workplace about your career progression and leadership development practices and policies. That’s a pretty big signal if you don’t have, you know, that goes for any marginalized group, really? Like if you don’t have any. Lack leaders. If you don’t have any disabled leaders, if you don’t have, you know, whatever it might be, that’s a pretty significant power dynamic or, or power. you know what I mean? Like for all of the dominant group to have leadership roles is a pretty important, I think, signal to be paying attention to.

[00:32:11] That third question was, do you know about accessibility at your workplace? If you did answer? No. I would encourage you to ask everyone you come in contact with until someone does then make sure that there’s a discussion about where that information should be or should live so that it’s more readily available to everybody.

[00:32:32] And then the last question, do colleagues talk openly about their disabilities at work if you answered? No. I highly recommend you connect with leaders in your organization to start to open up that dialogue about making those discussions safe at work. So again, kind of like how do we start to contribute and break down? You know, the, the barriers to that more inclusive climate that, that is necessary. I think for people to want to disclose that they have a disability.

[00:33:00] Benjamin Rue: [00:33:00] Wow. Thank you so much for that amazing list of do’s and don’ts and actions that people can take. there are so many people with everything happening in the world, everything bad happening in the world right now, there’s so many, so much good coming out and people really want to be able to take action and make the world better place for all their coworkers, their BiPOC, people disabilities, LGBT QA . So just great advice on how to really help and be an ally, for your, disabilities. So thank you for that. I, I hate to do this, but I have to ask my last question. because this has been such a great conversation. are there, are there any resources you’d recommend for listeners in addition to the great list of do’s and don’ts and things to do you already provided?

[00:33:48] Ashley Oolman: [00:33:48] Yes. Yes. Yes. So, full disclosure, I’m a super nerd. I’ll try to keep it brief.

[00:33:55] Benjamin Rue: [00:33:55] Oh. And also full disclosure. We will be posting this list as well.

[00:33:58] Ashley Oolman: [00:33:58] Spread it far and wide please. Yes, they’re there. So there are all sorts of things. Free resources available that help employers get caught up in this area and then stay on track with workplace accessibility and disability inclusion.

[00:34:14] So, since you’re posting the list, I’ll just run through them quickly. We’ve got the job accommodation network, the employer resource assistance network. The society for human resource management. I’m sure a lot of the listeners are probably pretty familiar with that one. Yeah. Yep. The office of disability, employment policy, proposed public right of way accessibility guidelines. And then the last one that I listed, is the department for education and economic development. And then in addition to those, I, you know, those are, those are more kind of like workplace or community, you know, access related resources. There are also disabled activists all around the world that can be found on varying platforms who are advancing human rights and centering on disability, identity, culture, rights, justice, and more.

[00:35:05] And I mean, full disclosure, there are so many folks that have been doing this work a lot longer than I’ve been nerding out this area. So I do feel like I have to have these names, some of my favorites. So to round out the recommended resources list, here are some of those, we’ve got the national disability rights network, the national black disability coalition and the disability visibility project. Incase listeners are interested, I would love to keep this conversation going. So if anything comes up or you have any questions, please feel free to reach out. Ben, if you wouldn’t mind, sharing my contact info in the show notes with those resources, that would be awesome.

[00:35:46] Benjamin Rue: [00:35:46] Oh yeah. We’ll definitely be sharing that and I, will be including it in my, and my closing.

[00:35:52] Ashley Oolman: [00:35:52] Oh, very cool. Well, I would just like to thank everyone again for joining me today. And in closing people with disabilities have been effectively segregated from participation in the workforce, proven by the rate of unemployment being at least twice that of the remainder of the U S population. And that’s across all 50 States.

[00:36:11] We just reviewed today that there are laws in place, but compliance with those laws. Only scratch the surface of disability inclusion opportunities for businesses to explore the session, open, direct, and critical dialogue about compliance and accessibility with an audience of professionals that I truly believe are most likely to influence that meaningful change.

[00:36:34] So from now on, I encourage you to move forward in the workplace with this knowledge, a hunger for more information and enough competence and audacity to make aggressive and necessary advancements in your own workplace and in the area of disability inclusion.

[00:36:49] Benjamin Rue: [00:36:49] Thank you so much for that wonderful conversation Ashley. If you’d like to learn more or continue a conversation yourself. Please feel free to contact Ashley at aoolman@lifeworks.org. Or visit her at www.lifeworks.org/community. You can listen to more episodes of The Forum podcasts at our website forumworkplaceinclusion.org/podcast. Or find us on Apple podcasts, Spotify, anchor, and Stitcher.

[00:37:18] Thank you again for listening. Have a great day.


Outro: [00:37:22] Thank you again for listening to the Forum on Workplace Inclusion podcast. Don’t forget to subscribe to our podcast to get updates and the latest episodes. Also tell us what you think by reviewing our podcast. We’d love to hear your feedback for more information visit us at forumworkplaceinclusion.org, or search Workplace Forum on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Thank you very much and have a great day.

[00:37:45] The Forum on Workplace Inclusion podcast is recorded at Augsburg University in Minneapolis, Minnesota. One of the most diverse private colleges in the Midwest. Augsburg University offers more than 50 undergraduate majors and nine graduate degrees to 3,400 students of diverse backgrounds at its campus in the vibrant center of the twin cities and nearby Rochester, Minnesota location.

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