Autistic Board of Education member in Connecticut obtains victory in discrimination lawsuit.

Brown, Goldstein & Levy attorneys Eve Hill and Anthony May, along with co-counsel from Disability Rights Connecticut, recently defeated the Connecticut Town of Enfield’s motion for summary judgment in a 2019 lawsuit filed by BGL client, Sarah Hernandez, against the Town and its Board of Education for violating her civil rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Ms. Hernandez—who was elected to the Enfield Board of Education in November 2017—says she ran for a position on the Board because she wanted to “show up and be a voice for people with autism in the decision-making process.” She is one of the first openly autistic people to run for, and be elected to, public office. Ms. Hernandez is also hard of hearing and has auditory processing disabilities. Because of this, she has difficulty hearing and understanding telephone conversations and in-person conversations unless she gets written materials, can see the speakers, and can take and exchange notes. Ms. Hernandez asked the Board to have speakers face her when speaking, to communicate with her between meetings in writing, such as by email and text, and to provide written materials and an erasable white board for notetaking during executive sessions.

The Board repeatedly refused to comply and met her requests with blatant hostility. The discrimination culminated in in an executive session, where the Board failed to provide written information, formally stated that it would not honor her communication needs, directed Board members not to communicate with her or provide her information, and, essentially, removed her as a Board member.

“Ms. Hernandez ran for office to be a voice for the people with autism and other disabilities in her community. The Board’s discrimination against Ms. Hernandez made it clear that they have no interest in ensuring that all members of the community can participate equally in civic life,” said Anthony May. “This victory is another step toward obtaining the justice Ms. Hernandez deserves.”

Anthony J. May has represented clients in a variety of complex litigation matters including assisting employees with disabilities in obtaining accessible technology and accommodations in the workplace, representing individuals who have been wrongfully convicted, commercial litigation disputes, and fighting workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation.

In February 2017, Eve Hill, one of the nation’s leading disability rights attorneys, joined Brown Goldstein & Levy, where she continues to pursue her devotion to civil rights. Her wide-ranging experience complements the firm’s dedication to high-impact disability rights cases and its advocacy on behalf of individuals with disabilities and their families. Eve is co-leader of Inclusivity, BGL’s Strategic Consulting Group