TO BE DEAF OR NOT TO BE DEAF: THE PAUL KIEL STORY
It is about a deaf man who was raised in a hearing dominated society until he discovered ASL.
An example from the book -
WHERE IS JUSTICE FOR DEAF IN WORKPLACE?
My story is about working and facing discrimination throughout employment at Select Artificials in St. Louis, Missouri. There seem to be no justice for the deaf from the decision rendered by the 8th District Court of Appeals.
During the last week of December 1991, I got a message from the Job Service about job possibility at a company that needs a billing clerk. With my strong background in billing, I thought my chances of landing that job would be good. I had an appointment on or about January 7, 1992. I was told they have history of hiring the deaf.
At the interview, there was no interpreter provided and I was not sure what to do. I had to swallow a bitter pill by going along with the owners of the company in order to get the job. We had to communicate by notes and gestures and speechreading. I arrived on time and was told to sit in the seating area until the owner named Mr. John Robert Fry
would come for me. He came forward. He motioned me to come into the office with his wife, Julie.
During the interview, they asked questions by notes and I replied in writing and some verbally. I saw the pictures of Republican people such as Bob Dole, Kit Bond and various politicians. I told Mr. Fry that my father is very active in that group and I have picture of Bob Dole with my dad.
He seemed pleased. They asked me to start working on January 20, 1992. I accepted and was told to take a "training" with Mrs. Fry on Saturday, January 18th.
On January 18th, I showed up for work. Mrs. Fry motioned me to the desk where I would be working. She brought in papers and boxes to indicate what kind of work is involved. She turned on the computer and displayed various softwares to be used in getting the program to take care of billing needs for the company. It was frustrating trying to understand what Julie was talking about as there was no interpreter and she did write notes to indicate procedures and what to do next at each step from the start to finish. She made me do some work after showing me some procedures. I got lost as there was no clarification on what to do and she shouted at me for not doing it right. She would get pissed off if I make mistakes. I was taken aback by that and was kind of confused. I had to swallow bitter pill by tolerating that situation. I personally do not think oralism is paying off in this case. Finally later in the day, the training was over. I was relieved and eager to go home. They told me to show up on Monday.
Then Monday, January 20, 1992 I showed up for the first day at work. I was excited to start a paying job and do the kind of work I am so used to.
Mr. Fry took me around the warehouse and the company to meet all people who are involved in various areas of the company from sales to shipping. In the warehouse, I saw two deaf ladies working. I was excited to know there is deaf people that I could socialize with during breaks and lunch.
Unfortunately, we had different times for lunch and breaks. I had to request time off to match with Ruth Sullivan and got approved. I understood that Ruth worked so many years at the company. I was interested in knowing how she fared with the company. She said it was difficult working for the owners.
Months passed into summer. I found out that the company had been ignoring the rights of the Deaf. Whenever they have meetings, they only wrote notes and told them in a few words what was going on. I asked Ruth if she ever asked for tty at work. She said that Mr. Fry said no. So I asked them if I could bring mine so they could consider buying one. I tried to tell Mrs. Fry that I could make business phone calls. She said not to as she wants Terri Fritz , the supervisor to handle the
calls and she did not want to hurt her feelings by taking away the duty of making phone calls for me. I was lost as I thought it was a clear discrimination.
During the Holiday Season, the Frys had an open house with all the employees. They had meeting and discussed some issues. They did not bother to bring interpreters to accomodate the three deaf adults working at the company. They acted as if everything is ok . I was wondering how much tolerance I should have with the way they were treating us.
Spring of 1993 - I showed the book about ADA to Mr and Mrs Fry in order to try to see if they will be willing to do those things to help the deaf workers have equal access. They did not care and told us to get back to work. I felt intimidated by the situation. I tried to analyze the situation and tried to find solutions. It was hard enough trying to keep the issue worked out at a low profile. I thought of contacting outside agencies to help , but I feared some kind of reprisal from the owners. I did contact some interpreting agencies and they were unable to do some kind of sensitivity training due to legal
ramifications. There was no active Deaf group involved in providing sensitivity program. I had to try to educate them on alleviating the problem, but I run into deadends.
Later in the year, Mr. Fry motioned me to his office. He wrote a note to tell me to stop staring at people in the office. I was shocked. I told him in defiance "My eyes are my ears! You know very well that I am Deaf! " He was visibly angry and upset. He had to leave the office to tend to something else and told me to wait.
Mr. Fry came back and said for me to go back to work. We were not even finished talking about the issue. So he left me high and dry on that.
When the UPS had a new program to make shipping easier and they wanted to train me to enable me to utilize the program easier. The Frys tried to have Julie Fritz to explain to me after the UPS training. I protested and said we could have sign language interpreter to do that and let us sort out the issues and communicate easier through the interpreter.
Mr. Fry was somewhat mocking in saying that the interpreter is really nothing and thought all the information that was relayed would come out the back way. I was perplexed to understand why Mr. Fry said something of that kind. I had mixed emotions of feeling good to have interpreter at the training and feeling frustrated with Mr. Fry's attitude toward the interpreter.
There were some instances that they had meetings or gatherings without interpreter and I had to ask Terri Fritz to keep me posted on what is happening. But she was not qualified to relay the information.
January 1994 - at Mr. Fry's birthday party in the employee lounge, I was becoming frustrated when the staff and people got together and was talking. Mr Fry stood up and said some speech. I did not understand and was bold enough to stand up and ask to be excused. I walked out without knowing the answer and went to my desk and proceeded on working.
February 17, 1994 - I came to work few moments earlier to enable me some time to make copies of a letter requesting the Frys to look into consideration of buying a tty for three of us. I folded letters and stuffed into envelopes. Mrs Fry came in and said good morning. I replied back to her the same greeting. Then I walked into the warehouse to pass the envelopes to Ruth and Melissa. I explained to them what the letter was about.
Then I returned to my desk to start working for the day. I then asked Terri Fritz for a day off next week to see doctor about sinus problem I had been having for past few weeks. She said ok.
Then I put a letter on the divider at front of room for Mr. Fry. Julie came to my desk and asked me what was going on and why I was using the copier to make personal copies. She accused me of breaking company policy.
She made some kind of accusations that I did not understand. She was talking too fast and I got frustrated trying to understand what she was talking about. There was no such company policy as many employees do help themselves to the copy machine. I motioned to the front that there was letter for Mr. Fry. She shook her head and said no. I got up and
walked up to the front desk and picked up the letter. I told her that the letter was for Mr. Fry. She shook her head and opened the letter. I tried to tell her to wait til Mr. Fry comes in and we could have discussion with interpreter or something. She shook her head again and again. I was frustrated about the way she was behaving and I thought something went wrong. I decided to tell her that she was being selfish. I said to her, "You are selfish! You are selfish!". I decided to stop discussing because of her eccentric behavior. I was thinking about going back to my desk and finish the work. I went to my desk and got papers, pen and ruler out of the drawer. The drawer was sticking due to size of the drawer (3 ft by 5 ft) and the aging of wood so I tried to push it close. It got stuck and I had to hit it to slam it shut. It seemed like a bad day for me with those incidents that morning.
A while later, Julie came to my desk with a note. It said, " DID YOU KNOW THAT YOU WERE YELLING AT ME?". I looked at it and looked at her face puzzled. I told her I was sorry as I did not know that I had yelled. I was only trying to communicate what I was saying. She took off back to her office.
I turned around to talk to Terri. I asked her what was wrong with Julie? She seemed to be different this morning. I jested that she can buy houses, fur coats and cars, but cannot afford a tty device. So I went back to work on my desk. She came out again to my desk and asked me if I was telling truth about what I said earlier. I said yes.
I asked her what was going on. She took off back to her office. The day moved on and it was around 4:30 p.m. when I cleaned up my desk and put everything away. Terri told me that Julie wanted me in her office. I replied ok and walked into Julie's office. She handed me a letter.
I read it and was shocked to find out that she was terminating me for insubordination. I was confused and I asked her what was going on? She was on phone and was sort of ignoring me. I asked her if she could get interpreter to discuss this matter. She turned her head away and was still talking on phone as if she wanted to ignore me. I said bye and went to the desk to clean out the stuff and got an empty box. I picked up my papers and stuff and put them in the box. I looked around
the room and was hurting inside. I picked up the box which was about three feet long. I then walked out the front door and used my foot to slam the door shut as I had hands full. I was too upset to think about what to do next, but I wanted to go home and talk to my family.
My family told me to proceed with legal assistance in reviewing to see justice for me. So I did file with Missouri Commission on Human Rights and the EEOC ( Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) in April of 1994. Several months passed and both agencies admitted that they had backlog of cases and could not pursue further on my case. They recommended that I find an attorney to be active on my case.
Days, Weeks, Months and Years have passed in pursuing legal manuevers in getting the case heard by the jury to determine ADA violations. The attorneys have been working hard to present facts in both courts at District Court and Court of Appeals.
At the District Court, the judge ignored my case and favored the employer. He did not even bother to consider letting me have the jury to decide the case. He lacked the sensitivity in the ADA situation.
So we filed appeal at the Court of Appeals.
January 16, 1998 - The oral arguments were presented before a panel of 3 judges. The court of appeals took the case in consideration and reached the decision in spring of 1998. 2 out of 3 ruled in my favor and ordred the case to go back to the District Court to remand and have jury to review the case. The Select Artificials objected and filed for some kind of appeal to have a full panel of judges to hear the case. The court agreed to that appeal and scheduled for September 1998.
September 1998 - The oral arguments were presented before a panel of 13 judges. It is technically the same arguments presented before the 3 judge panel now heard by the 13 judge panel.
March 1999 - The 8th District Court of Appeals with the full panel involved reviewed the case and decided to favor the employer. There were four dissenting judges who disagreed. So with 9 judges overriding the decision did favor the employer.
May 23, 1999 - A final decision is needed to either to give up the years of legal maneuvering to get the justice for the deaf or GO ON to the SUPREME COURT and have justice for the deaf there!?
The story continues in the book about the case going up to the U.S. Supreme Court and...
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The book is in production and scheduled to come out sometime in October 2007