Brooke Ellison Of Stony Brook University On What You Should Do If Your Employer Is Not Willing To Make Reasonable Accommodations For Your Disability

An Interview With Eric Pines

Eric L. Pines
Authority Magazine

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Be vocal! It is sometimes the case that people with disabilities feel uncomfortable either disclosing their disabilities or asking for accommodations. Despite the discomfort that this can sometimes present, reluctance to disclose disability or to ask for accommodations only perpetuates a stigma that people with disabilities do not belong in the workplace. It is necessary and empowering to talk about disability and what is needed to ensure equal access to employment for people with disabilities.

There has been a significant improvement in disability inclusion in recent years. That said, there are still times when employers need to make reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities. What recourse is there for someone whose employer is unwilling to make reasonable accommodations? What do businesses still need to learn about making reasonable accommodations for disabled employees or customers? In this interview series, we are talking to lawyers, HR experts, disability advocates, business leaders, and authors about “What You Should Do If Your Employer Is Not Willing To Make Reasonable Accommodations For Your Disability.” As a part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Brooke Ellison.

Brooke Ellison, PhD, MPP is an Associate Professor of Applied Bioethics at Stony Brook University. When she was 11 years old, Ellison was hit by a car: an accident that left her paralyzed from the neck down and dependent on a ventilator. In 2000, Brooke graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University. In 2002, Brooke published a book, Miracles Happen, which was made into a movie, directed by Christopher Reeve. Brooke graduated from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government with a Master’s degree in Public Policy. In 2006, Brooke ran for New York State in 2011, Dr. Ellison was granted an honorary degree from Rutgers University, and, in 2014, was chosen to be a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader. In 2017, Brooke joined the Board of Directors of the New York Civil Liberties Union. In 2018, Brooke was chosen to be a Truman National Security Project Political Partner. In 2020, Brooke was appointed to the Suffolk County Human Rights Commission. In 2022, Ellison published her book, Look Both Ways, in which she reflects on critical lessons she has learned in her life with quadriplegia. Later that year, Brooke took on the position of Vice President for Tech Access at the nonprofit organization, United Spinal.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you ended up where you are?

I grew up on Long Island, and for the first 11 years of my life, was involved in so many of the activities that characterize childhood. I studied dance and karate. I sang in the church choir and played the cello. I played little league baseball and soccer. But all of that changed on Sept. 4th of 1990 when I was hit by a car while I was on my way home from school. The accident left me paralyzed from the neck down and dependent on a ventilator. Despite my physical situation, I was determined to continue with my life, and continue to make a difference. After spending nearly one year in the hospital, recovering from my injuries and adjusting to my new life, I returned home and focused on my education.

When I returned to school, I was welcomed by friends I had missed and found an environment that allowed me to thrive. In 2000, ten years after my accident, I graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University. I graduated with a degree in Cognitive Neuroscience, a combined major of psychology and biology. I gave a commencement address for my Harvard graduation in June of 2000, which was covered extensively by media outlets around the world, including an extended segment on the TODAY Show and a cover story by the New York Times.

In January of 2002, my mother, Jean Ellison, and I published a book entitled, Miracles Happen, which documents my family’s experiences from the day of my accident until my graduation from Harvard in 2000. Our book subsequently was made into a movie, directed by Christopher Reeve, which first aired on A&E on Oct. 25th of 2004. I continued my education by graduating from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government with a Master’s degree in Public Policy.

Since my graduation from Harvard in 2000, I have worked as a public speaker, delivering the message of hope and motivation, and strength in the face of obstacles. My audiences have been many and diverse, as I have spoken to members of the medical community, business corporations, politicians, community members, students, and nonprofit organizations, traveling across the country to do so. Some of my most notable engagements have included a congressional briefing, several commencement addresses in my receipt of two honorary degrees, presentations on diversity and inclusion, and a global presentation on disability inclusion to the entire Harvard Alumni Association. Although the specific message differs from audience to audience, I focused my attention on hope and motivation, using my own experiences as a vehicle to convey the message.

In November of 2006, I ran for New York State Senate, focusing my attention on the issues of health care, education, and funding for stem cell research. My campaign was endorsed by the New York Times, and was highlighted on the TODAY Show. Just as I had overcome challenges in my life, I sought to help the state of New York overcome its challenges. I based my campaign on restoring a sense of hope to politics, with the belief that government has an important and problem-solving role in our lives.

Since the field of human embryonic stem cell research has been in existence, I have been a steadfast advocate and supporter of this promising work. Appearing on Larry King Live in 2004, I spoke at length about the importance of public funding for embryonic stem cell research. During my 2006 state Senate campaign, I campaigned extensively on the stem cell funding issue, holding press conferences and public events with gubernatorial candidate Eliot Spitzer and lieutenant gubernatorial candidate, David Paterson. In 2007, I delivered the keynote address at the World Stem Cell Summit in Boston, MA, before an audience of leading stem cell scientists, policymakers, advocates, and pharmaceutical representatives.

I continued my work as stem cell research advocate and public speaker by founding a nonprofit organization, The Brooke Ellison Project, which worked to further this cause. Through the work of this organization, I conducted many speeches and community forums on the basics of stem cell research and its promise for the future of medicine. Speeches and public events included presentations given at Harvard University, University of Pennsylvania, Stony Brook University, Rutgers University, Amherst College, The New School, SUNY Farmingdale, and Suffolk County Community College. Working with director, Jimmy Siegel from A-Political Productions, The Brooke Ellison Project produced a documentary both about the research and the lives it stands to benefit. This documentary film has been screened all across the country, and was the recipient of the Humanitarian Award in the Long Island Film Festival, and The “Mass Impact” Award in the Boston Film Festival.

My work as a stem cell research advocate precipitated my involvement in a public forum event conducted by the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, and several similar events conducted by the New York Stem Cell Foundation. It has been as a result of this work that I was inducted into the Suffolk County Women’s Hall Of Fame, was presented with the Inspiration Award at the 2008 World Stem Cell Summit, and was announced as a New York State Woman of Distinction. In May of 2011, I received an honorary doctorate from Rutgers University as a result of the work I have done in this field, as well as my work in advancing disability rights. During the 2008 presidential election, I was approached by the Obama campaign to offer input on recommendations for a federal stem cell policy. In 2010, I held a press conference with Congressman Steve Israel at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories on the importance of congressional action on stem cell policy. I have written and been interviewed extensively on this issue, appearing on News 12, NBC News, WPIX, and Channel 55, and opinion pieces running in Newsday, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and the DailyKos.

In addition to my professional pursuits in the area of stem cell research, I have received two gubernatorial appointments in New York State in relation to it. In April of 2007, I was appointed to the New York State Spinal Cord Injury Research Board, which provides grants for spinal cord injury research. In August of that same year, I was appointed to serve on the Ethics Committee of the Empire State Stem Cell Research Board, which oversaw New York’s $600 million stem cell research initiative. Through both of these appointments I worked to help advance a cause I had dedicated myself to promoting.

Now I am an Associate Professor at Stony Brook University, focusing on Applied Medical Ethics, Health Policy, and Disability. As a faculty member at Stony Brook University, I have committed myself to researching and advancing the lives of people with disabilities, pursuing projects related to disability and technology, disability and quality-of-life, and opportunities for individuals with developmental disabilities. I served as the Director of the Center for Community Engagement and Leadership Development, to empower underserved communities. In 2014, I was chosen to be a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, a position through which I work to elevate the importance of stem cell research as well as tackle challenges experienced by people with disabilities. One initiative I undertook as a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader was entitled, Inclusive Future: a campaign to bring disability into human rights in international development conversations. In 2017, I was chosen to serve on the Board of Directors and Executive Committee of the New York Civil Liberties Union. In 2018, I was chosen to be a Truman National Security Project Political Partner. In 2020, I was appointed to serve as a commissioner on the Suffolk County Human Rights Commission.

In 2021, I published a book entitled, LOOK BOTH WAYS, which is among these events in my life of which I am most proud. In this book, I discuss some of the deeply personal experiences I have undergone, as well as lessons I have learned as a result of living the majority of my life with quadriplegia. Written from a position of self-reflection and maturity, I could not have written LOOK BOTH WAYS without having grown into or found my voice in the larger disability framework. Because of this book that I have been able to give interviews, speeches, and presentations about my life with disability, how it has changed me as an individual, and the insights it has given me as a result.

In 2022, I grew my professional work by taking on the position of Vice President for Tech Access at the national nonprofit organization, United Spinal Association. Through this position, I will be working to advance the integration of disabilities into existing and future technological innovation, so that it is relevant to the lives of people with disabilities. I am of a mind that disability is a sociocultural context just as much as it is a physical construct, and technology is one mechanism by which people can be enabled rather than further disabled. I see technology as a fundamental mechanism by which people with disabilities can gain access to basic human rights, and conversations about technology cannot be had without including people with disabilities in them.

The details of my life have been widely covered in such publications as The New York Times, People Magazine, USA Today, Newsday, Biography Magazine, and The International Herald Tribune, as well as, such programs as Entertainment Tonight, Access Hollywood, The Today Show, Good Morning America, The Early Show, and Larry King Live. In each of these appearances, I has expressed my desire to have an impact on the world, stating “wherever there is a condition of discouragement or inopportunity, that’s where I hope to be”.

You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Please share a story or example for each.

The path I took from the day of my accident 32 years ago to where I am now has been long, sometimes arduous, but often typified by accomplishment. While I am proud of this, I also know that it is the outcome of several important characteristics that I believe have come to define my life.

Hope, or hopefulness, is the virtue around which I have chosen to build my life. In work I had done at Harvard as an undergraduate, and then in many applied instances since then, I have come to understand hope in a practical, action-oriented sense. My interpretation of hope is not simply a depiction of the things we wish for in an amorphous sense, but, rather, I understand hope to be a recognition of the challenges we face, an appreciation of their impact on our lives, but also a deliberate reduction of these challenges to the least significant role they could play in our lives. I believe hope to be not the ignorance of challenge but, rather, the product of challenge and then the personal will to find a way forward, nonetheless. At every turn in my life, of which there have been many beginning with my accident, itself, I have relied on hope to guide me through. When I was only 11 years old, after having undergone the most unimaginable trauma and personal transformation following my accident, I had a vague sense that I would have to find a way to move forward, focusing on the potential that my life still embodied, and limiting my feelings of loss to only the areas of my life directly affected. It was with that knowledge that I could focus on my education, claim my voice, and work to create a life for myself that had meaning and purpose.

My life is also a life characterized by love, and this virtue or trait has been at the core of my identity. Love, born out through my relationships with my friends and family, has provided the strength and support I have relied on in times of struggle. My friends and family are the backbone of who I am, they are my heroes in the truest definition of the term, and they are the guideposts of who I hope to be. There have been countless instances in my life when sadness or frustration could easily have been overwhelming, but support from my friends and family abated it and reminded me what was truly important.

Finally, despite any amount of conceivable heartache, leadership and determination have been at the foundation of my identity and purpose in my life. Throughout my 32 years living with quadriplegia, I have been eager to set goals for myself, and have relied on a sense of determination to keep my life directed toward the achievement of those goals. I have come to understand that, once you have begun setting goals for yourself and have achieved them, that skill set becomes integrated into your identity, so much so that it becomes difficult to confront instances of challenge without also constructing ways around it.

Can you share a story about one of your greatest work-related struggles? Can you share what you did to overcome it?

In my book, LOOK BOTH WAYS, I discuss one of the most troubling work-related issues I experienced in my professional career. In 2017 and 2018, I pursued tenure: one of the coveted achievements in a career in academia. In this process, a tenure candidate must create a comprehensive file that includes all their course evaluations, course syllabi, academic publications, conference papers, and general contributions to knowledge. This file is then reviewed by colleagues for their evaluation. If an evaluation committee does not feel a candidate is ready for tenure, it is often the case that this candidate is asked to leave the University at which she is a faculty member.

When I decided to pursue tenure, and throughout the tenure process (which can take well over a year), I was met with a considerable amount of resistance from colleagues which put not only my tenure but my entire career at risk. Much of this resistance was based in ablest biases: some faculty did not feel that I was capable of being a tenured professor, another faculty member said to me directly, “would you want them to give you tenure just because you are in a wheelchair.”, and another stated that my tenure would lower the bar for this professional achievement. It was a horrible and horrifying process that made me question my self-worth and value as a professional academic.

In order to overcome this situation, I forced myself to communicate directly with the people who I knew were opposed to my advancement. I scheduled meetings with several of these people, to talk about their concerns and how inaccurate they were with respect to my professional accomplishments. I also had to speak to administrative decision-makers about why the expressed concerns were unfounded and how they should not stand in the way of my professional future.

In this troubling circumstance, I was forced to be an advocate for myself and to reclaim a personal narrative that was being co-opted by other people. I had exercised leadership in other aspects of my life to effectuate change for others, but in this situation, I had to exercise it for myself.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I thrive on keeping myself as busy and fully engaged as I possibly can. While I cannot engage in many of the activities that occupy people’s time, generally speaking, I dedicate myself to work related projects that I hope will help generate a better world.

First, I am a professor of medical ethics and disability studies at Stony Brook University. In addition to the teaching that I do, I also conduct research on the lives of people with disabilities and how to devise ways to improve them. Working with engineering faculty, I help to design technology that can assist people with significant locomotor disabilities, like quadriplegia, to live richer and fuller lives. These might include interfaces with computer and smart devices that allow people who cannot move their arms and hands to navigate these devices. I also conduct research on the additional costs associated with living with disability, working to estimate the expenses that people incur simply by living with disability.

Next, I work as the Vice President for Tech Access for the national nonprofit organization, the United Spinal Association, an organization that provides resources and services to people with spinal cord injury and other neurological disorders. In this position, I work with engineers, innovators, and technologists in Big Tech to help make their existing and future technology is usable for people with disabilities. In order to do this, I act as a liaison between the technology sector and people with spinal cord injury, themselves, so that there are avenues of communication about what people need, where opportunities live, what works, and what does not work. In addition, I am working on the development of an educational curriculum to be integrated into Schools of Engineering, to train future engineers and innovators to be inclusive of people with disabilities in their work. As an increasing amount of our lives is migrating over to virtual platforms, for instance in education, employment, healthcare, social connectivity, I am working to make sure people with disabilities are fully included in that technology can be seen as a human right.

In addition, I am an active member of the Harvard Alumni Association, which has a vast network that reaches into every corner of the world. Through my participation in the Harvard Alumni Association, I have been working to create a group entitled, Harvard Alumni Disability Alliance, to bring together Harvard students and alumni with disabilities. Through this work, I hope to integrate disability into all academic and social disciplines, even those that do not typically revolve around disabilities: architecture, law, humanities, engineering, public policy. I want disability to be as reflexively a part of every social conversation as is any other group, and I believe Harvard can set a high bar in how this can be accomplished.

Finally, I am a member of several organizations and groups designed to advance human rights, including the World Economic Forum Young Global Leaders, the Truman National Security Project, and the Suffolk County Human Rights Commission. While each of these organizations works to promote human rights protections on a general scale, I have been active in bringing attention to human rights as they relate to people with disabilities.

Outside of these projects, I recently published a book, entitled LOOK BOTH WAYS, which is perhaps the most personally-meaningful project I have done, as it touches on central lessons I have learned in my life and how these can be applied to other people’s lives, as well. I have been fortunate to give interviews and presentations based on this book, sharing parts of my life with people who may gain something from them.

Fantastic. Let’s now shift to our discussion about inclusion. This may be obvious to you, but it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you articulate to our readers a few reasons why it is so essential for a business or organization to have an inclusive work culture?

It has been demonstrated time and time again that organizations that include a diversity of perspectives and experiences perform better, as they are better equipped to demands of a changing environment and world. People who have seen the world from a different vantage point bring with them knowledge that might otherwise have been missed or underappreciated. Organizations that resist inclusion also fail to prepare themselves for the changing nature of our society, and they fail to learn from the richness of experiences outside of their own.

While inclusion of people from all backgrounds is critical, it has been particularly slow for people with disabilities. In fact, many diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) trainings and initiatives have largely been absent of people with disabilities, altogether. That is a loss for everyone. People with disabilities bring with them unique experiences and ways of viewing the world, born out of challenge and resilience, that are of tremendous value to any organization. An organization that does not include people with disabilities misses out on a perspective that is driven by problem-solving and leadership, which is of value to everyone.

Can you share a few examples of ideas that were implemented at your workplace to help promote disability inclusion? Can you share with us how the work culture was impacted as a result?

There have been several initiatives undertaken to help ensure inclusion of faculty and students with disabilities on the Stony Brook University campus, where I work. Diversity, equity, and inclusion have been important priorities on the Stony Brook University campus, and administrators have worked hard to create an environment that matches these expressed priorities.

First, the position of Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) has recently been created to develop a welcoming environment for people from diverse backgrounds. The work of this office includes ensuring opportunities and protections for faculty and students with disabilities.

In addition, Stony Brook University has what they have called the Office of Equity and Access, which has been established to identify and then implement the accessibility accommodations for faculty and staff with disabilities. Through this position, employees speak with members of the Office of Equity and Access, provide justification for their accommodation request, and collaboratively draft a letter stipulating these needs. The letter is then shared with faculty supervisors, who must abide by the stated accommodations. The Office of Equity and Access is the employee-based version of the office of student accessibility services, which helps implement accessibility and accommodation dates for students.

Finally, Stony Brook University has created what they call a Quiet Room for students and faculty with sensory and neuro-diverse backgrounds. This room provides quiet and calm for students and faculty who can become overwhelmed by ambient noise and stress.

The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) requires businesses to make reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities. For the benefit of our readers, can you help explain what this looks like in practice?

The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) brought the term “reasonable accommodations” into workplace vernacular. Reasonable accommodations are the modifications that are made to workstations,, the built environment, working hours, and workload so that people with disabilities can reasonably take part in employment and become more fully participatory in the world. The phrase, “reasonable accommodations”, though, is somewhat amorphous and it is helpful to have some practical examples of what this looks like.

A reasonable combination might be a height adjustable desk for a wheelchair user. It is sometimes the case that desks in a workstation is not the appropriate height for someone who uses a wheelchair. A reasonable accommodation since, it would be to replace the existing desk with one that is either the appropriate height or height adjustable.

Another reasonable accommodation might be the integration of flex hours into an employee’s schedule. For many people with disabilities, the typical 9–5 workday can be problematic, or they require remote work possibilities. A reasonable accommodation, in this case, might be to allow disabled employees the opportunity to shift their hours, make time for doctors appointments, provide remote-work opportunities.

Finally, a reasonable accommodation might be the relocation of one’s desk or workstation to a location that is less abrasive to one’s census. Particularly for people on the autism spectrum or with sensory disorders, the ambient noise, lights, and activity can be distracting, disoriented, or even harmful. Moving one’s desk to a different location within the office provides these employees with the opportunity to work to their fullest capacity.

Aside from what is legally required, what best practices can make a business place feel more welcoming and inclusive of people with disabilities? Please share a few examples.

It is often the case that people with disabilities can feel isolated or marginalized in any environment, especially in the workplace when disability is so frequently misunderstood as analogous to productivity, or lack thereof. In an attempt to create a more welcoming and inclusive environment for employees with disabilities, it is helpful to have a mentorship program through which employees with disabilities can be integrated into the workplace and community of colleagues. As a newly-hired faculty member at Stony Brook University, I initially felt quite distanced and legislative from my colleagues, but after having been brought under the mentorship of a more senior member of the faculty, I became familiar with the nuances of workplace culture and felt empowered to take on initiatives I otherwise may have been reluctant to undertake.

In addition, it is critical not only to hire employees with disabilities but, just as much if not more so, to provide these employees with advancements and leadership opportunities. People with disabilities have knowledge and skill sets that are frequently underappreciated or go ignored, and these employees are often overlooked for leadership positions. Just as much as any other employee, employees with disabilities need to see a future, growth, and opportunities for advancement in the places in which they work, so deliberate efforts ought to be taken to make this happen.

Here is the central question of our interview. What are the best steps to take if an employee feels that reasonable accommodations are not being made to address their needs? Can you please share “five things one can do if a business is unwilling to make reasonable accommodations for their disability?”

1 . Be vocal! It is sometimes the case that people with disabilities feel uncomfortable either disclosing their disabilities or asking for accommodations. Despite the discomfort that this can sometimes present, reluctance to disclose disability or to ask for accommodations only perpetuates a stigma that people with disabilities do not belong in the workplace. It is necessary and empowering to talk about disability and what is needed to ensure equal access to employment for people with disabilities.

2 . Talk to a Chief Diversity Officer. Many organizations are realizing the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion, and as a result, have integrated the position of Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) into their structure. However, issues pertaining to people with disabilities are rarely included in DEI-related conversations. It is important to share with a CDO what accommodations are necessary and how this contributes to diversity and inclusion within a workplace.

3 . Speak to the organization CEO. It is sometimes the case that people are simply unaware of the imperative nature of accommodations in order to maximize opportunity for people with disabilities. Having an open and honest conversation about one’s needs and why they are critical to employment opportunities could have an impact on one’s ability to get those accommodations.

4 . Mobilize your colleagues. It is extremely difficult to generate change on your own, and we all need allies to accomplish the change we are looking to make. By bringing on colleagues who can help shoulder the work and initiate conversations, change can be made.

5 . Securing accommodations when there is resistance to these accommodations is a classic leadership challenge. Everyone can exercise leadership, no matter where they are in the world or in society. If no other option is successful, attention should be brought to the situation, so that your voice can be amplified. If other strategies are not having an effect, you can take the situation to the local media to discuss accommodations that need to be made and why they are important.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story about how that was relevant in your own life?

When nothing is sure, everything is possible. — Margaret Drabble

I have incorporated this idea into my life at many points, when circumstances seemed bleak or uncertain. We can look at moments of fear or uncertainty as times of crisis or we can look at them as opportunities for change and possibility. There is an inherent creativity to be found in times of struggle, if we only take the time to rview them that way. Following my accident in 1990, following my graduation from Harvard in 2000, and after several life changing battles with healthcare issues, I had to believe that these moments could bring about opportunities for positive change and growth.

You are a person of significant influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

In the years since my accident, I have committed myself to an array of human rights and humanitarian causes, all of which I have found to be immensely rewarding. However, I have been guided by valuable advice: do the thing that only you can do. This has been instrumental in helping me find my voice and purpose in the world, and it has been a source of inspiration for me throughout my life.

If I could inspire a movement that I could leave as a legacy, it would be to help fundamentally change the way people with disabilities are understood and valued. Historically speaking, people with disabilities have been looked at from several, equally detrimental, vantage points: as objects of pity, as people from whom society ought to distance itself, or as the vulnerable and weak. None of these characterizations accurately reflect the resilience, strength, problem-solving skills, or leadership that truly lie at the heart of living life with disability, or living life in a world that is not set up for your involvement in it. These are the true characteristics of disability; these ideas represent the actual epistemology of life with disability.

I would like to build a movement that reinterprets disability, replacing ideas of weakness, marginalization, and stigma with ideas of strength, empowerment, and ingenuity. I would like to help create a world in which the thought of disability is inseparable from these qualities and, as a result, that people with disabilities are associated with the virtues that disability engenders. I want to help shape a society in which it is wholly expected to see people with disabilities in every leadership circle: board of directors, legislative bodies, C-suites, and that they are provided with the resources necessary to make this possible. That is change I have committed myself to making, and that is change I believe is achievable.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

I can be followed at the following:

www.brookeellison.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/brooke_ellison1020/

Twitter: @brookemellison

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/brooke.ellison1020/

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!

About the Interviewer: Eric L. Pines is a nationally recognized federal employment lawyer, mediator, and attorney business coach. He represents federal employees and acts as in-house counsel for over fifty thousand federal employees through his work as a federal employee labor union representative. A formal federal employee himself, Mr. Pines began his federal employment law career as in-house counsel for AFGE Local 1923 which is in Social Security Administration’s headquarters and is the largest federal union local in the world. He presently serves as AFGE 1923’s Chief Counsel as well as in-house counsel for all FEMA bargaining unit employees and numerous Department of Defense and Veteran Affairs unions.

While he and his firm specialize in representing federal employees from all federal agencies and in reference to virtually all federal employee matters, his firm has placed special attention on representing Veteran Affairs doctors and nurses hired under the authority of Title. He and his firm have a particular passion in representing disabled federal employees with their requests for medical and religious reasonable accommodations when those accommodations are warranted under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (ADA). He also represents them with their requests for Federal Employee Disability Retirement (OPM) when an accommodation would not be possible.

Mr. Pines has also served as a mediator for numerous federal agencies including serving a year as the Library of Congress’ in-house EEO Mediator. He has also served as an expert witness in federal court for federal employee matters. He has also worked as an EEO technical writer drafting hundreds of Final Agency Decisions for the federal sector.

Mr. Pines’ firm is headquartered in Houston, Texas and has offices in Baltimore, Maryland and Atlanta, Georgia. His first passion is his wife and five children. He plays classical and rock guitar and enjoys playing ice hockey, running, and biking. Please visit his websites at www.pinesfederal.com and www.toughinjurylawyers.com. He can also be reached at eric@pinesfederal.com.

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Eric L. Pines
Authority Magazine

Eric L. Pines is a nationally recognized federal employment lawyer, mediator, and attorney business coach