People with Disabilities Taking on More Leadership Roles
Workspan Daily
July 29, 2022
Disabled People Leaders

The 2022 Disability Equality Index finds that more companies are employing people with disabilities in leadership roles than in years past, and that organizations are also trying to make their corporate boards more inclusive of people with disabilities.  

The Disability Equality Index is a benchmarking tool designed to help companies build a roadmap of measurable, tangible actions to achieve disability, inclusion and equality. More than 400 organizations — including 69 of the companies in the Fortune 100 — participated in the 2022 DEI, which is a joint initiative of the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) and global business disability inclusion network Disability: IN.  

This year’s index found 126 companies with a senior executive — the CEO or within the first two layers reporting to the CEO — who is internally known as being a person with a disability. That number stood at 99 in the 2021 DEI. In addition, 10% of companies now have documents that govern nominations of board directors that specifically mention the consideration of people with disabilities, and 6% have someone who openly identifies as having a disability serving on their company’s corporate board.  

“Disability inclusion is the new frontier of ESG [environmental, social and governance] investing and corporate social responsibility. To prepare for the future and create sustainable businesses, companies must engage their stakeholders with disabilities and weave disability inclusion into everything they do,” said Ted Kennedy, Jr., co-chair of the Disability Equality Index and AAPD board member, in a statement.  

“We commend the companies that are taking demonstrated, actionable steps to unlock opportunities for people with disabilities at all levels of a company, including in boardroom roles.”  

EEOC Investigates Discrimination Claims at Tesla 

In its second-quarter filing issued on July 25, Tesla said that the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has issued a cause finding that closely parallels complaints of workplace discrimination included in a lawsuit previously filed by California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH).  

As CNBC reported, the DFEH revealed in February that it had “engaged in a three-year investigation of Tesla, received hundreds of complaints from Black workers there and found evidence that the company routinely engaged in racist discrimination that harmed these workers” (Tesla’s first U.S. vehicle assembly plant is based in Fremont, California). 

For example, the DFEH alleged that Tesla has kept Black workers in lower-level roles at the company even if they had the skills and experience necessary for promotions or more senior roles.  

The civil rights agency also claims that Tesla assigned Black workers more physically demanding, dangerous and dirty work in their facilities, and retaliated against Black workers who complained formally about the treatment they received, which the employees say include racist slurs used by managers in the workplace.  

In April, Tesla filed a motion to strike and a demurrer seeking dismissal of the DFEH lawsuit, or at least certain claims within the suit. A hearing to decide that motion is scheduled for Aug. 24. Tesla will now engage in a mandatory conciliation process with the EEOC, according to its second-quarter filing, and the federal agency can see Tesla over the alleged civil rights violations in federal court if the organizations cannot reach a resolution.  

Oakland Port Reopens After Trucker Protest of Gig Worker Law 

The Port of Oakland has resumed operations following a shutdown spurred by truckers protesting California’s Assembly Bill 5, the gig worker-related law that reclassified some independent contractors as employees.  

“The Port of Oakland has resumed full operations,” said Danny Wan, the port’s executive director, in a statement. “We appreciate the independent truck drivers use of the designated Free Speech Zones and we thank local law enforcement for their continued assistance.” 

The reopening came just days after management at the Oakland International Container Terminal (OICT) closed operations at the Port of Oakland, in the midst of an ongoing independent trucker protest focused on a California gig worker law known as AB5. The port’s other three marine terminals were effectively shut down for trucks as well, according to CNBC, which noted that the protests were sparked by the rise of gig economy platforms like Uber, Lyft and DoorDash.  

A two-year legal stay was recently lifted when the Supreme Court decided not to hear a case which would have protected truckers from the impact of the gig worker law, which requires companies that hire independent contractors to reclassify them as employees.  

Employee Lawsuit Alleges Labor Violations at Walmart 

Two former Walmart employees have filed a lawsuit against the Bentonville, Arkansas-based retailer, claiming the company violated their rights to a predictable and regular work schedule, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.  

Donald Washington and Symone Wilder, both former employees at the Bustleton Walmart on Roosevelt Boulevard in Philadelphia, filed the suit, claiming the company regularly violated Philadelphia’s Fair Workweek ordinance, which obliges covered employers to provide service, retail and hospitality workers with a predictable work schedule, and requires good faith estimates and 14 days advance notice of schedule, along with other protections.  

As an example of the violations the suit alleges, Washington told the Inquirer that he’d often have unexpected schedule changes midway through shifts; changes that he said made finding childcare for his young son difficult. Washington worked at the Bustleton Walmart from May 2021 to June 2022, while Wilder worked at the store from April 2018 to September 2021.  

“We take the requirements of the Philadelphia Fair Workweek ordinance seriously and have policies in place to comply with it,” said Randy Hargrove, a Walmart spokesperson, in a statement. “We will respond to the lawsuit as appropriate once we are served with the complaint.”  

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