This post is not about politics which often is the topic of the show. It is about an ongoing incident in my life. Numerous listeners have expressed an interest in learning more about my personal life and what it is like being blind. If you’re not interested in this, stop reading.
For those who stayed, after graduating law school from the university of Notre dame in 2011, I worked at the Ohio Attorney General’s office as an assistant attorney general. Before the inevitable gasps of WOW in awe of such a glamorous position, remember one thing. 90% of the Buicks my coworkers drove had a severe case of rusty rockerpannels. But, I actually was proud to work there…at first. But like waking up next to a woman you thought looked beautiful at the bar the night before, the impression stage wore off rapidly.
Since I am blind, I need all my documents scanned into a computer. Unfortunately, current scanning technology does not translate handwriting into computer text. This means any document I receive as a lawyer containing handwriting must be typed out by my secretary. This is not a huge deal if your secretary only has my documents to work on. However, the Attorney General’s office of Ohio decided to assign my secretary the work of five other attorneys in addition to myself. Predictably, my effectiveness suffered professionally.
Despite numerous requests to obtain my own secretary, a reasonable accommodation which is what the law requires, the office refused. I fought the office for three years. Eventually they got tired of me complaining and moved me to a less relevant section called Opinions.
My boss was a prickish crank named Kevin McIver. He is a 67 year-old soft spoken man who lives in a studio apartment. He has never been married. He has never had kids. He is not gay. His mother died fifteen years ago. Despite her house being four hours north of Columbus Ohio in Toledo, he has never sold it. Instead, he drives up to her house every two weeks to cut the grass. No this is not a joke. Like the Trump presidency, the truth is stranger than fiction.
It was not long before my mind assigned him the name of Norman Bates. He is the character with the mother fixation in the book psycho by Robert Block.
Despite doing a fifty page dissertation at Notre Dame Law School, one of the highest ranked law schools in the nation, each document I submitted to Norman was returned with comments about how my research was unacceptable. After one year of working under Norman, I quit.
My wife and I moved to Indiana and I applied for my Indiana law license. This is where the below email becomes relevant. The Indiana bar association contacted my former employer…Norman. He wrote a letter indicating that I was professionally unqualified and lacked the character sufficient to obtain a law license. This letter was submitted despite the fact that none of my employee annual reviews indicate any unsatisfactory performance. Can anyone say defamation?
The only reason I have not filed a law suit against Norman and the halfwits which pass for the state’s legal representation at the Attorney General’s office, is because I obtained my law license. It turns out the Indiana bar does not pay much credence to the opinion of someone’s whose idea of fun is cutting his dead mothers lawn.
Before we continue, let me be clear. I abhor people writing stuff online about their employers past or present. Do NOT do it. It is unprofessional and inappropriate. However, since I worked for a government agency whose records are open to the public, and determined to destroy my character because I dared to ask them to follow the law, I figure I should present my side of things. Below is a email I sent to the head of Human Resources a few hours ago. I hope it inspires other people who may be discriminated against by their employer on the basis of disability, gender, sexual orientation, or any other illegal reason. You do have rights. Discrimination is wrong. If you feel like you may have a case, email me. otherwise, enjoy!
From: James Lockwood [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Saturday, December 02, 2017 9:29 PM
To: ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’; ‘email@example.com’
I am emailing to inform you that my former manager Kevin McIver, on behalf of the Office Of the Ohio Attorney General, drafted a letter to the Indiana bar association containing libel for the purpose of defaming my professional reputation. The letter indicated that I was an unsatisfactory employee. The letter also alleged that I spent “more time on [my] radio show then I did on work assigned to me by the office.” My “radio show” was an approved outside activity by the office for which I never performed work on during work hours. Mr. McIver also wrote that and that in his “expert” opinion, he would “not hire me again as an attorney.” Not only do the statements misrepresent McIver’s authority over me at the time of my employ, he does not have sufficient responsibility to hire employees, nor is it likely that he will be elevated to such a high position within the office of the Ohio Attorney General in the foreseeable future, all of these allegations are entirely untrue. They were made by Mr. McIver for the purpose of preventing me from obtaining a law license in the state of Indiana and defaming my professional reputation.
As I am sure you are aware, considering the records are within your possession, no such unsatisfactory work performance was ever indicated in my annual evaluations. One would imagine that employees who allegedly conduct unsatisfactory work performance might expect it to be indicated within their employee evaluations.
My employ at your fine legal establishment commenced in September of 2011. At that time the office was well aware of my physical disability. As an individual who is completely blind, there were accommodations which needed to be provided to me to allow me to perform my assigned work. My requests for these accommodations were documented by me to your office in numerous emails throughout the first four years of my employ. For the record, in addition to a scanner and an accessible computer with screen reading software, both of which were surprisingly provided, I was also in need of a secretary who could have sufficient time to scan in material in an accessible format. As emails make abundantly clear, in order for such a secretary to have sufficient time, a secretary would need to be assigned to me exclusively. This was even something requested by my then assigned secretary Maria. This was a reasonable accommodation. The law requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities. However, despite me making numerous requests, such reasonable accommodations were never made.
Due to the failure of your office to comply with the basic requirements of the Americans With Disabilities Act, you created a hostile work environment. On numerous a cations I received filings from judges indicating that it was unacceptable that I was requesting extensions on due dates for the filing of briefs. Said briefs were unable to be written by me within the allotted time because I did not have access to the written record in an accessible format. It would have been professional malpractice for me to draft a memorandum on behalf of my client before having the ability to read the official record. So I was forced to request extensions because my secretary, who was also assigned to five other attorneys, did not have sufficient time to convert the written record into an accessible format. Being forced to choose between negatively impacting my work performance and committing professional malpractice, due to the office’s refusal to comply with the basic requirements of both state and federal law, is a clear example of the creation of a hostile work environment. My subsequent transfer to the Opinions section did not alleviate the hostile work environment which your office created by failing to accommodate my disability.
I raised these issues at the time of my transfer. Such complaints are documented within email correspondences between yourself and I. I am sure if you check within your archive you can have the pleasure of reading them. Regardless, I have copies of correspondences documenting all the facts contained within this email in case your copies has become conveniently misplaced.
In response to my complaint that I was being transferred solely due to the office’s refusal to provide me reasonable accommodations, I was told that it is within the discretion of the office to reassign employees to different sections. While true, I would be interested to learn the number of attorneys with optional vision within the Health and Human Services section who were forcibly transferred to other sections. It is undoubtedly an area of interest in any future legal action which hopefully will not become necessary. While your office has the discretion to transfer employees, your office can not conduct such transfers for discriminatory purposes.
The following is a summary of Ohio law dealing with defamation of character. I took the courtesy of including it within this email, since I am not sure as to whether Mr. McIver has yet had to conduct his infamous extensive research on this area of law for one of his opinions. In Ohio defamation of character is any statement that is injurious to a person in their trade or profession. Becker v. Toulman 138 N.E.2D 391. It is clear the above statements, which are only a small sample of McIver’s letter, do qualify as defamation per se. Ohio does recognize the fair report privilege. To take advantage of this privilege statements do not need to quote the record verbatim. However, such statements must be supported by evidence within the record. Considering my employee evaluations did not indicate any negative work performance, it might be a little difficult to support such statements with the given records. Screenshots of internet posts for which there is no evidence I made during work, is not sufficient evidence. If such “evidence” is what the office wishes to rely upon in any future potential action, it would be interesting to learn how many employees with optimal vision have not been defamed after their employ, for which there is evidence indicating that internet posts had been made by computer scheduling software on their behalf during the day.
The Ohio Attorney General’s office, along with McIver, may be receiving a cease and desist letter mailed to your office on my behalf. This letter will indicate that while I do not foresee filing a defamation action against the office for this single incident of character defamation, I will file such an action immediately, against both the Office and against Mr. McIver personally, if any such defamatory statements are made in the future.
Even in the unlikely event that I were to lose such a potential suit, I am sure the citizens of Ohio would enjoy to learn that allegedly lackluster employees are not disciplined by the Ohio Attorney General’s office. I am also sure disability organizations would love to learn that blind employees are not only refused reasonable accommodations, but are also expected to travel down the elevator in the event of a fire. This was not only a requirement made clear to me, but also to another employee who is confined to a wheelchair. I will not indicate her name because she is afraid of employment retaliation. The Ohio Attorney General’s office refused her request to have her office located on the ground level, a reasonable accommodation one might say considering it is a well-known fact that elevators are the most dangerous places to be in a fire.
I am well aware of the fact that the statute of limitations on defamation of character is one year from the incident of defamation. However, I am sure the Office and McIver will have another opportunity to issue defamatory statements within the 2018 calendar year. I hope that future correspondences do not become necessary as a result.
James H. Lockwood
Lockwood Legal Services llc.
Attorney at Law