Getting into fights with employers about your rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act may cause more problems than it solves. The legal route is the last resort. Getting into a nasty lawsuit with an employer may get you branded as a troublemaker. There are some situations when a lawsuit is justified, such as being fired after the boss lied to her superiors and told them that you failed to do your job even though you had good performance reviews. Just remember, if you choose to fight, even if you win the battle with an employer, others may be reluctant to hire you. You will be forced to choose between the lawsuit or a career.
–Temple Grandin and Kate Duffy. Developing Talents: Careers for Individuals with Asperger Syndrome and High-Functioning Autism. Appendix. pg 146
While on the one hand this is good advice from a purely personal perspective, this also creates the conditions for continued open discrimination such as I have experienced. Having a child makes one more future-minded, and I hate to have to imagine my son going through what I’ve gone through.
Whether the battle is worth it depends on what war you’re waging. If you’re simply trying to get back at the company, it’s probably not worth it. It will cost you a lot to get very little. But if you intend to make the lawsuit into a public discussion of discrimination against autism–a discussion that certainly needs to take place–then you should go forward with it.
No one has ever accused those with autism of having a great deal of “public-spiritedness” or of being particularly communitarian, but the fact of the matter is that we need to stand up for ourselves and speak out on our own behalf. I know that this is essentially saying, “Introverts of the world, unite!” but discrimination against us will continue until and unless we do. While I will certainly do as much as I can sitting here at this computer, I am also willing to go out there and give talks and do other social things that will get done what needs to get done. Even if it makes me uncomfortable, as much of it certainly does.
I’ve already been without a career of any real sort for a long time now. And it is because people have been discriminating against me because of my Asperger’s. This was true before I knew I was on the spectrum, and it has proven itself explicitly true since I learned and have made the choice several times to disclose. Each time I have found myself without a job. I could only surmise, of course, that my disclosure affected the decision to not keep me around. At least, until the last time it happened. When you are told, “We have no intention of accommodating you” there is little left to the imagination. And that’s when it may be time to sue.