Autism Mother Sues Autism Speaks For Disability Discrimination

 

The mother of a teenage autistic son is suing the organization Autism Speaks for alleging rescinding a job offer after she asked if workplace accommodations might be possible due to her child’s needs.

That is, an organization that says it champions the needs of autistic individuals and their families is being sued for failing to accommodate the needs of a mother and of her autistic child.

Autism Speaks Sued For Disability Discrimination

According to Disability Scoop, Simone Greggs is charging Autism Speaks with violating the the Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act when, just as she was going to start a new job as walk events manager at Autism Speaks’ Washington, D.C. office in early May, the organization rescinded the offer. Greggs had completed five different interviews, a pre-employment background check and a drug test but “everything changed” when she asked for workplace accommodations or if she might work from home, as her autistic son returns from school early on Wednesdays.

Autism Speaks told Greggs that accommodations would not be possible. She was able to make other arrangements but, according to the court filings, Greggs was then told that Autism Speaks was “rescinding the employment offer because they did not want to make any accommodations for the care of her autistic child.” Expecting to work for the organization — which, as the mother of an autistic teenager like myself she must have felt a personal connection to — Greggs had turned down a job with the Democratic National Committee in April and is seeking compensatory and punitive damages.

But as she emphasizes to Disability Scoop, Greggs says that her suit is “not about money but principle for her.” Once a supporter of Autism Speaks (certainly, to seek to manage the autism walks, which are important fundraisers for the organization), Greggs describes the experience as “devastating”:

“They say one thing and they do another. You can’t say that you’re for helping families with children with autism and then you can’t give me an accommodation.”

Working Mothers of  Autistic Children and the “Having It All” Debate

A Pediatrics study published in March found that we mothers of children on the autism spectrum earn less earn less. We earn 35% ($7189) less than the mothers of children with other health issues and 56% ($14, 755) less than mothers of children without health issues and disabilities.

I’ve been able to work full-time for most of my son Charlie‘s life because I’ve been a professor at a number of smaller colleges and universities where teaching has been my primary responsibility. I’ve been able to set up my work hours so I can see Charlie off to school, get home before the school bus arrives and drop everything when the school nurse or principal calls to say: “You need to pick him up now.” My husband Jim Fisher is also a professor and has flexible work others. Otherwise, I have no idea how we could take care of Charlie (we have no other caregivers for him). As Jim often says, “we have no margin for error.”

Taking care of Charlie has completely affected our careers. We can teach and work from home but are unable to travel to professional meetings and undertake extensive research that would involve visiting archives and distant libraries. I feel very lucky to have a job that allows for accommodating Charlie’s needs and love all the time we spend with him, but taking care of him has meant cutting corners in my academic scholarship and limiting certain kinds of professional advancement.

Autism Speaks: Past Controversies

Greggs’s lawsuit is not the first time Autism Speaks has found itself at the center of controversy in its short history. Shortly after its founding in 2005, Autism Speaks was criticized by parents and autistic self-advocates over its promotion of a film, Autism Every Day, in which a mother said she once despaired so much that she thought of driving her autistic daughter and herself off the George Washington Bridge. A dispute about vaccine research also led to a front-page New York Times story describing a rift between Bob and Suzanne Wright, who had founded the organization, and their daughter, Katie Wright.

According to its mission statement, Autism Speaks says that it “dedicated” to “raising public awareness about autism and its effects on individuals, families, and society; and to bringing hope to all who deal with the hardships of this disorder.” Gregg’s discrimination lawsuit has surely raised awareness about the challenges of raising an autistic child. It is unfortunate that Autism Speaks has not actually practiced what it preaches and presented a model of how to accommodate for the needs of autistic children and their families.

 

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34 comments

Brenda K.
Brenda K.3 days ago

I think this is a charming issue, I expect you would surely post on it again sometime near the future. Thanks guys! bed and breakfast Singapore

Jessica L.

In some aspie milieus AS goes by 'Adolf Speaks' and 'Autism Swastikas', for very good reasons. they're not about helping autistic people. They're about the NT families of autistic people and of "curing" us, and they don't even get that a "cure" would kill the person I am on the inside as autism is part of who I am, how I think, reason, react and feel. That organisation is a big part of why the term "neuro-nazi" was coined on AFF. A lot of socalled high functioning autistic people (like me) don't want a "cure", we want acceptance for who we are, people who are as different from you as someone from another culture, who have *other* strengths and weaknesses than the general population.
That organisation really p*** me off!! I pity those autists who have to live with their influence!

Rin S.
Rin S.3 years ago

I hope they get their ass sued. How hypocritical of them.

Katie M.
Katie M.3 years ago

http://www.rescuepost.com/files/autism-speaks-complaint.pdf

Link to full complaint and rest of comment from below:

Waiting until the Sunday before one starts employment on a Monday, to attempt to make a serious negotiation in a regular schedule of employment, when it could have reasonably been discussed when the job offer was made two weeks prior, is a red flag for any employer. That is not an issue of refusing employment based on an accommodation, it is an issue of whether or not the individual is determined as the right person for the job, based on their evidenced behavior.

If this was the issue of concern apparently Ms Gibbons was willing to accommodate it, but her superiors had a greater overall concern over whether or not this was the right person for the job.

At this point though we don't know whom initiated the conference call or what the full discourse of that conversation consisted of. It apparently became a heated one, if it is true that the organization threatened a lawsuit of harassment as per the complainant's statement in the first part of the complaint that described the conference call.

Considering the inconsistencies evidenced in the complaint it is highly unlikely this complaint will be accepted as a case for court, unless the inconsistencies are corrected. If so, we will likely never hear autism speaks side of the story, as it is a private personnel issue, that would not be appropriate for any organization to discuss with the general public.

Katie M.
Katie M.3 years ago

In the actual text of the full complaint the woman that made the complaint stated in one section that autism speaks did not give a reason for rescinding the offer of employment, and then in another statement in the same complaint stated autism speaks rescinded the offer of employment because they were not willing to accommodate her autistic son's day care needs.

It's highly unlikely a paid attorney is involved in this complaint as they would likely never have allowed an inconsistency like that in a complaint.

Regardless of whether or not one agrees with autism speaks decision not to accommodate individuals in these 9 am to 5 pm positions to meet school schedules for childcare concerns, they are within their legal rights per case law to maintain required organizational schedules, and to refuse the accommodations.

At this point since the complainant states in the first part of her complaint that autism speaks did not provide a reason for rescinding the offer, none of us know the full extent of the events of the conference call or what their business based decision was in rescinding the offer of employment. If her first statement is factual in the complaint it appears her second statement is her personal opinion that autism speaks rescinded employment based on not willing to provide an accommodation of daycare for her autistic son.

This position was a position that required a high level of meeting deadlines and reaching goals. Waiting until the Sunday before one star

Katie N.
Katie N.3 years ago

I don't know much about Autism Speaks, but I did not think this was a very well written article nor a hugely damning one. I'm a little surprised by how quickly people take one persons account of anything and turn it into shock and scandal and say 'I will never support them again!' If this organization is truly bad in some way, this article doesn't give me anything to go on except some employee hopefuls account about their unfulfilled belief in their right to entitlements. It sounds like they didn't inform those performing the hiring process of these needs until the process was nearly done which doesn't seem very fair. Suing anyone in this case seems immature to me. If it was truly about principle, about Autism, I do not hear that in the interview portion. They sound like people who have much to be grateful for. If they can do something like Autism speaks better, then by all means...

Katie N.
Katie N.3 years ago

I don't know much about Autism Speaks, but I did not think this was a very well written article nor a hugely damning one. I'm a little surprised by how quickly people take one persons account of anything and turn it into shock and scandal and say 'I will never support them again!' If this organization is truly bad in some way, this article doesn't give me anything to go on except some employee hopefuls account about their unfulfilled belief in their right to entitlements. It sounds like they didn't inform those performing the hiring process of these needs until the process was nearly done which doesn't seem very fair. Suing anyone in this case seems immature to me. If it was truly about principle, about Autism, I do not hear that in the interview portion. They sound like people who have much to be grateful for. If they can do something like Autism speaks better, then by all means...

Danuta Watola
Danuta Watola3 years ago

Thanks for the post!

Kellyanne M.
Kellyanne M.3 years ago

Really? This would be true irony if it weren't so sad and wrong.,

Brenda Towers
Brenda Towers3 years ago

Thanks for sharing.