From the November-December 2016 issue of News & Letters
by Suzanne Rose
Melissa Yalch Valencia, a temporary staffing agency employee at the New Mexico Orthopedics Associates in Albuquerque, New Mexico, said after she was fired, “It should never have happened. A mother should never have to worry about losing her job because her child has a disability.” Now NMOA is paying her $165,000 for associational disability discrimination in a lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. NMOA violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to hire her for a full time position and then firing her, because her three-year-old daughter was regarded as having disabilities.
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A new virtual-reality Halloween attraction planned for Knott’s Berry Farm in California was shut down after mental health advocates protested. The “attraction” gave an unrealistic and frightening view of mental illness. Visitors were strapped into a chair and given virtual reality goggles. Then they were subjected to hell: shown bloody bodies, deranged guards, escaped mental patients and every negative image of mental illness you can imagine. None of these should be used as “entertainment” as it exploits the pain and experiences of real patients.
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The U.S. Department of Labor has awarded grants totaling $14.9 million to six states as part of its Disability Employment Initiative. This program works to improve education, training and employment opportunities for youth and adults with disabilities who are unemployed, underemployed or receiving Social Security disability benefits.