Local EEOC seminar looks at disability rights

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By Steve Thorpe

Legal News

Richard Bernstein knows that employers grumble about the accommodations they have to make for disabled employees.

"People ask, 'Why is the ADA so important? Why, if I'm a business owner, do I have to spend so much money and resources on this? Why do I have to make my company accessible? Why do I have to focus so much on these issues?'"

But Bernstein believes that employers will find there's a big payoff at the end of the accommodation highway.

"You will find, when you give people with disabilities a chance to enter your workforce, when you give them a chance to join your team, that something remarkable happens," Bernstein said. "People like myself are so used to being denied, that, when you give them an opportunity, their passion grows. They're so excited to have a chance. They will bring energy and enthusiasm like you've never seen before."

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) presented the Detroit Special Topics Seminar on Tuesday, June 12, at the Westin Book Cadillac. EEOC Commissioners Chai Feldblum and Victoria Lipnic talked about equal employment and disabilities rights to help employers, attorneys and human resources personnel identify discrimination in the workplace and implement remedies. Richard Bernstein, of The Sam Bernstein Law Firm, was the keynote speaker talking about his wide experience with disabled rights.

Among the issues covered by the commissioners were job descriptions and the basics of reasonable accommodation. Medical leave, modified schedules and telecommuting as reasonable accommodations were also discussed. The program was presented at only six locations across the United States, including Boston, Denver, Miami, Los Angeles and Seattle as well as Detroit.

EEOC Commissioners Feldblum and Lipnic were both appointed by President Barack Obama in 2010. Feldblum is a former Georgetown University law professor who played a key role in the development of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990. Lipnic is the former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employment Standards.

Blind since birth, Bernstein is a trial attorney, practicing law in both state and federal courts. He has successfully represented clients in high-profile disability cases against the City of Detroit, the University of Michigan, and Delta Airlines.

During his speech he argued that individuals with disabilities can be more focused and enthusiastic and that these qualities shouldn't be overlooked.

"The paradigm that I always try to live by is this: Those among us who are blessed with adversity, hardship, challenge and pain are most often the same people who can know, understand and appreciate their purpose. Those of us who know what their purpose is, why they were created, are people who will live their life with an incredible sense of passion."

Published: Tue, Jun 26, 2012