Able not disabled

Calling discrimination ‘stupid management’ somehow makes it legal

ablenotdisabledA three-year nightmare has come to an end for me.

Most of my life has been spent applying the “Golden Rule.” Get your education, work hard, apply oneself, volunteer, and higher positions can be attained along with financial rewards.

As a Black male with a disability, I knew I would have to work at minimum twice as hard, apply myself and talents twice as hard, volunteer to gain team building, leadership, and consensus building skills.

I have held dozens of volunteer and many volunteer leadership positions. I started managing people and departments at the age of 18. I have been a successful business owner and operator for 20 years as of June 2015, gaining a combined 35-plus years of successful leadership and management skills.

I gave consideration to returning to Corporate America. My desire was to gain employment in the healthcare industry. I applied for more than 40 positions within the healthcare industry.

There were a few positions I applied for that required the ability to repair small motors and other equipment. Being partially paralyzed on my left side with no ability in my left hand to manipulate or hold the sometimes tiny parts required in repair, these positions would not be a fit for me.

In other areas that required a minimum amount of skills and abilities, I was not offered positions. I was personally interviewed by one group of people that could not agree on the date of the interview, who was in the group interview, if I asked any questions, if I walked with a noticeable uneven gait, and whether or not I made a racist statement.

Later one of the people in the group interview submitted official signed documents to his company stating he interviewed me personally again several months later. This interview did not take place. He merely submitted a copy of his paperwork from the prior group interview at a different institution. This is legal under current law as informed by an attorney and district court judge. It may be stupid, but not “discriminatory” or illegal.

One other manager in the “group interview” stated he shredded any and all documents and notes taken during the interview supporting his decision. This violated stated policy on the documents submitted on his behalf.

Recruiting managers out of state submitted signed official company documents claiming they acted as hiring manager and personally interviewed me. A hiring manager claimed I failed to respond to an email, but she had no documentation supporting that she sent or I received the email.

Again, the legal system says this was “stupid management” but not illegal or discriminatory. I was informed that large companies get busy and over-burdened, so they do “stupid” things to get by. None of this is illegal under current law.

This company is storing and submitting documents “stupidly” that have garnered them national awards. They use the receipt of national awards as their protection in legal proceedings. They seem to be able to use the false documents to support their legal position.

It appears the legal system is decades behind the legal expertise of companies and corporations in reaching the borderline of the illegal and stupid. All persons in this company denied knowledge of the possibility of my having a disability. Yet a hiring manager noted, “It is clear from his email address he is a person with a disability.”

Reviewing documents, I have a few words of wisdom for us. Do not count on the legal system to be just or fair. Anytime you hire a lawyer, do not allow them to make decisions on your behalf before you review every piece of paperwork they receive from others.

You know when you have been discriminated against. Do not give up or give in. The law needs to be changed and cases do reach court trial. The old laws applied using early interpretation by the courts no longer apply fairly today to individuals.

If “corporations are people, too,” then the law’s interpretation and application should apply to them equally, fairly and justly.


Kenneth Brown is a disability advocate and consultant, business owner, past chair of the Minneapolis Commission on Civil Rights, and 10-year member of the Minneapolis Advisory Council on Persons with Disabilities. He welcomes reader responses to