The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed a lawsuit charging that the employment services and placement referral company Randstad US, LP, failed to hire Jason O’Dell because of his disability of Asperger’s syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder. According to an EEOC press release about the suit:
Based on his qualifications for the lab technician position he sought, Randstad had originally fast-tracked O’Dell’s participation in the hiring process. While completing Randstad’s hiring paperwork, however, O’Dell disclosed the disability. Soon after, he was told that the lab technician position had been put “on hold.” O’Dell was not hired and Randstad continued to recruit and hire for the lab technician position.
The suit (Case No. 1:11-cv-01303-WDQ), which was filed last month, charges that the Frederick, MD company violated the federal Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) act, which makes it unlawful for anyone to discriminate against someone on the basis of their disability. The EEOC first sought to reach a pre-litigation settlement with Randstad through its conciliation process. On behalf of O’Dell, the suit sought “monetary and injunctive relief, including back wages, compensatory and punitive damages as well as employment policies to eliminate future discrimination because of disability.” Explaining why the EEOC took up O’Dell’s case, Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence says:
“We brought this lawsuit because of Randstad’s dismissive treatment of Mr. O’Dell based on its apparent presumptions about individuals with disabilities and their ability to be productive employees. It is exactly this type of prejudicial and stereotypical decision making that the ADA aims to eradicate.”
With more individuals with Asperger’s syndrome and individuals on the autism spectrum attending college and seeking to enter the workplace, the EEOC’s suit on behalf of O’Dell is significant. Indeed, there are many reasons that employers should want to hire individuals on the autism spectrum. As Asperger’s On the Job wrote regarding Asperger’s and Employment:
If you are worried about the aspie employee doing a good job without supervision, you needn’t bother. Our motivation, if we like our job, comes from within. If you ask me to mow your lawn, paint your wall, or perform brain surgery, I will do the best job possible, as long as it is within my skill set. I do not need big brother watching me, and scrutiny, rather than helping me, makes me shut down. I need to know what you need and when you need it by. If detailed instructions are required, I’ll write them down. I’ve heard of employers mocking aspie employees for extensive note taking. Ridiculous. It is how our minds work. I also require visual maps to know which way to turn when I come out of a building. Even if I go to that building frequently. It doesn’t make me stupid. Just different.
If you have a co-worker or employee who is different, who has Aspergers or you suspect may, read about it. Take the time. Personally I think that autism sensitivity training should be mandated like sexual harassment training. But there’s only 70+ million of us, so I guess that doesn’t warrant it?
Photo by Steve Bowbrick.