Last month I wrote a post linking to an article in the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin about Jocelyn Snower, a woman who was fired after her boss realized she was blind. In the post, I wondered how this could have happened. In the comments, I saw that my blog readers wondered, too. And so, I found Jocelyn’s phone number and gave her a call.
The lilt of Jocelyn’s voice tells you she smiles a lot. The words she says tells you she thinks a lot. It was easy to understand why the owner of Balance Staffing would want to hire her, and difficult to understand why he’d let her go.
Jocelyn started losing her sight when she was 18. “When it happened, it just changed everything,” she said over the phone. “You lose some of your independence, and you lose your idea of who you are. One day you’re perfect, and then the next day you have – what seemed to me, anyway – a big imperfection.” Jocelyn acknowledged that her visual impairment is a part of who she is now. “But it only impacts my life when I let it, it doesn’t stop me from doing anything I want to do.”
Jocelyn still has enough usable vision to ride a bike, and she doesn’t use a white cane or a guide dog. Her visual impairment was not mentioned during the interview. After hiring her, the business owner communicated with Jocelyn by phone and had no complaints about her work.
But then she was asked to fax him some HR paperwork. Her position as a job recruiter did not require her to drive, but the form asked for a copy of her driver’s license. She used her official State of Illinois ID instead, and the business owner started asking around. When a co-worker confirmed Jocelyn couldn’t see well enough to drive, the business owner fired her.
What. A. Story. The minute I hung up the phone I got right to work writing an op-ed piece about all this to submit to the Chicago Tribune. My hope was that they’d like it enough to run it in tomorrow’s paper: July 26 is the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The Op-Ed editor at the Tribune wrote me right back. They’d publish it, alright, but they’d do me one better. A law that sadly still needs to be on the books is in today’s paper. The Sunday Edition. Wayyyyy more people read the Sunday paper than the other ones, which means wayyyyy more people are going to hear about Jocelyn Snower’s story, and that makes me wayyyyy happy today. . I’ll end with a bit from the piece, but I do hope you’ll link to today’s Sunday Chicago Tribune to read it in its entirety:
Snower decided she might be better off working for herself. She runs her own successful job recruiting business now, specializing in finding nannies.
Still, she wanted the business owner to know he’d done the wrong thing when he let her go. So she took her case to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The EEOC alleged that the owner revoked Snower’s job offer the minute he found out she was blind, even though she had already been working successfully for him.
Last month a federal judge here in Chicago entered a consent decree requiring Balance Staffing to pay Snower $100,000. The judge’s decision was good news, Snower said. “But really, I felt I’d already won when the EEOC decided to take on my case,” she said. “It meant they believed me. They knew I could work. They knew I’d done a good job.”
Amen. Happy anniversary, ADA!