An update from about an important court case for those with dyslexia and other learning disabilities.

Settlement in Dyslexia Discrimination Case Shows the System at Work

ByAndrew M.I. Lee
Jun 26, 2015

By law, employers can’t discriminate against workers with disabilities. That includes learning disabilities. This May, two companies in Connecticut got the message—in the form of a lawsuit.

Kevin Lebowitz has worked as a carpenter for 15 years. He has a clean safety record. And he has many safety certifications.

Lebowitz also has dyslexia, which makes it very difficult for him to read printed text.

In 2012, Lebowitz reported for a new construction job, he says. McPhee Electric, Ltd. was the general contractor for the job. Bond Bros., Inc. was the subcontractor. When Lebowitz arrived, he was given a packet of safety information.

A safety officer from McPhee asked Lebowitz to review and sign the packet. Lebowitz told the officer he had dyslexia. He said he would need help reviewing the packet. And he offered to take it home to review.

That’s when a Bond Bros. superintendent told Lebowitz that he couldn’t be hired. Why? He was told he’d be a safety hazard since he couldn’t read the safety packet. (Neither company offered him any reading accommodations.)

Soon after, Lebowitz filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC is the federal agency that enforces laws against workplace discrimination. That includes the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The EEOC looked into Lebowitz’s claim. And it decided he had been discriminated against. So the agency filed a lawsuit against the companies in federal court.

“By all accounts, Mr. Leibowitz is a skilled carpenter,” says Catherine Wan, the EEOC attorney on the case. “Dyslexia had no impact on his ability to work safely. So this was really a misconception about people with disabilities.”

Lebowitz is not alone in his experience. “Complaints of workplace discrimination based on learning disabilities like dyslexia are not uncommon,” adds Justine S. Lisser, an EEOC spokesperson.

According to EEOC records, there were 408 of these complaints in 2014. Lisser points to cases against companies that demoted or fired employees because of their dyslexia.

In Lebowitz’s case, the result was a settlement. This May, the two companies agreed to pay him $120,000 in damages. They also promised to make changes at the companies.

One major change: Providing training about discrimination and reasonable accommodations for new and current employees. The companies also agreed to post related information at worksites. And they’ll change their employee handbooks.

The two companies declined to comment to Understood about the settlement.

“We are pleased that McPhee and Bond worked with us to resolve this lawsuit,” says Wan. “Trainings, notices and other measures—we think these will be effective in raising awareness. Disability discrimination violates the law.”

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Why do I tutor?

My greatest passion is to help children succeed in reading and writing.  I’ve been told I’m very good at it both from my students and their parents.

The Journey!

My daughter went to school and life was good, well at least academically.

My son went to school and I knew something was wrong.  I even asked if they thought I should hold him back a year.  No, he’s fine.  And so the story went.  In second grade, he was one of the teacher’s stronger readers – to my surprise.  But when she told me what they were reading I realized that he had memorized them at home.  They didn’t read one story that he had not had read to him multiple times.  ….. In third grade, we started getting outside evaluations and found out he was dyslexic with a disorder of written expression.  Then in fifth grade I was homeschooling him after little progress in the traditional school.

That was the year he learned to read.  I wasn’t yet trained in Orton-Gillingham, but in hind site I used a lot of what I’ve learned about how to teach dyslexic students.  The piece I was missing was how systematic it should be.  This son is now 24 (2016), he graduated from Guilford College in Greensboro, North Carolina with honors in physics and mathematics.  He is teaching in Louisville, KY with the Teach Kentucky Program.  He received his Masters of Education from the University of Louisville, in May of 2016.

Then along came my baby who read all the time.  His vocabulary was always years ahead of his peers.  In third grade, he still hadn’t chosen a dominate hand.  He couldn’t print his alphabet appropriately, so how would he learn to write cursive (his teacher agreed with me).  Even though he couldn’t put anything on paper his teacher called him “Fantasy Boy” because of the great stories he created orally.  His writing only got worse, yet his reading comprehension remained grades ahead.  Middle school was so difficult for him, he would come home and take multiple baths to relax.  He did some occupational therapy which helped with some things, but not really with the writing process. I decided to homeschool him for eighth grade (a downward spiral was happening at school).  This gave us time for more outside testing and interventions.  Oh! Surprise (sarcasm), he had a disorder of written expression (dysgraphia).  By now, I was noticing that even though his comprehension was so high he was making odd mistakes when he read out loud.  Some fabulous people have helped us along this journey.  As a junior in high school, he enrolled in college through PSEO (Post Secondary Enrollment Option) and carried a full load of courses.  He graduated from high school in 2013 with 60 plus college credits.  He is scheduled to graduate from University of MN, Duluth in 2017, with lots of educational experiences along the way.

Both of my boys are twice exceptional, which means they are gifted with a learning disability. So qualifying for services in school seemed to be a completely different process.  They both ended up with a 504 plan.  But this path of the journey was full of disappointments in a system I believed was meant to educate children.  That is a story for some other day.

I was fortunate enough to volunteer in the schools while my children were growing up and still do.  I was always asked to help those that had difficulties.  I knew what students at a given age were capable of doing in school.

My training in Orton-Gillingham has given me the training and tools I wish I’d had when my boys were younger.  My greatest passion is to help children succeed.  References are available.