Recording at the State Bar of Texas’ 2019 Annual Meeting, host Rocky Dhir sits down with panelists Lia S. Davis, senior litigation attorney at Disability Rights Texas, and Jake Monty, managing partner at Monty & Ramirez LLP fresh off the stage from their presentation Representing Diverse Clients: Issues of Culture, Disability, and Lifestyle. Together, they cover common mistakes people make when dealing with disabled clients, and the issues that frequently arise when businesses hire minorities.
Lia S. Davis is a senior litigation attorney at Disability Rights Texas.
Jake Monty is the managing partner at Monty & Ramirez LLP.
Special thanks to our sponsor, LawPay.
State Bar of Texas Podcast
State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting 2019: Representing Diverse Clients
Intro: Welcome to the State Bar of Texas Podcast, your monthly source for conversations and curated content to improve your law practice, with your host, Rocky Dhir.
Rocky Dhir: Hello and welcome to the State Bar of Texas Podcast recorded from the Annual Meeting in Austin, Texas. This is Rocky Dhir, and I am the host for today’s show, which is being sponsored by LawPay, trusted by more than 35,000 law firms to accept legal payments online. It’s the only payment solution offered as a member benefit by the State Bar of Texas.
Joining me now I have Jake Monty, and Lia Davis.
Welcome guys, welcome to the show.
Lia S. Davis: Thank you.
Jake Monty: Happy to be here.
Rocky Dhir: Well, guys, so we’re going to talk today about representing diverse clients, but before we do that, tell us a little bit about yourself, so you know what, ladies first.
Lia, tell us what you do and where you live?
Lia S. Davis: I live here in Austin, Texas and I work at an organization called Disability Rights Texas. We are a legal nonprofit that works to protect and advocate for the rights of people with disabilities.
Rocky Dhir: And Jake, how about you?
Jake Monty: I am Jacob Monty, I have a firm called Monty & Ramirez, and we are the largest Hispanic-owned law firm in the State of Texas. We represent companies with large Hispanic workforces and that’s what we do.
Rocky Dhir: Okay. So we’ve got some diversity and some experience with representing people from different backgrounds.
Lia, let’s start with you for a second. I know you’ve talked about the legal obligations that lawyers have to accommodate those with disabilities. I don’t know how many lawyers are aware of that, can you talk to us a little bit about what those legal obligations are?
Lia S. Davis: Sure. Under the Americans Disabilities Act (ADA), lawyers have an obligation to provide accommodations to clients with disabilities. So the ADA actually lists out what are covered entities under public accommodations and lawyers’ offices are included as a public accommodation. So we know that lawyers have this obligation to clients to provide them with accommodations as necessary. So this may for example include for a client who is deaf, providing them with an ASL Interpreter if they request one. These are like I said — these are requirements under the ADA, which is a different look at this cultural competency issue.
So we’re looking actually at the legal obligations as well as I know we spoke more about the issues of cultural competency just in terms of communication with clients and sensitivity. These are two different things but we have to keep in mind as lawyers that we do have affirmative obligations to our clients under the law.
Rocky Dhir: And that ASL Interpreter that the law firm would need to pay for that if that accommodation is required?
Lia S. Davis: Yes, that’s right, and I always encourage any business but law firms would be included, of incorporating this cost into just the cost of doing business. So you know at the beginning of the year when you’re doing your budget, you keep in mind that throughout the year you may have to pay for an ASL Interpreter, and so it’s just part of your budgeting. It’s just like you might have a marketing budget, you have an interpreting budget or other accommodation that you might to pay for.
So it’s incorporated as part of your yearly budget such that when it happens, it’s not a big deal. It’s easy for you to schedule, it’s already been incorporated, you already know how you’re going to pay for it and it’s something that’s pretty seamless for the law firm or the solo practitioner.
Rocky Dhir: Those are some very good tips. And now, Jacob, tell us a little bit — you’re an author, you’ve written a couple of books. Your first one was a ‘Guide for Gringo’s’, tell us about that book.
Jake Monty: Sure, it was called ‘The Gringo’s Guide to Hispanics in the Workplace’, and it was designed to help non-Hispanics deal with Hispanic workforces, everything from do I have to put my handbook in Spanish to what about OSHA notices or other government notices, do they have to be in Spanish, to handling issues like holidays.
I had one client in California who ended up with a union organizing drive because they gave off Super Bowl Sunday but not Christmas, and for the Hispanic community Christmas was a big deal.
Rocky Dhir: Sure.
Jake Monty: Super Bowl Sunday was not a big deal, and once we made that change we were able to make the employees happy, the Union issue 00:04:15 and that was an easy fix but I’m proud of that fix, because sometimes people just don’t know.
Rocky Dhir: I’m surprised there was no communication between the employer and the employees, don’t they mention?
Jake Monty: Well, yeah, it’s funny. When the workforce was primarily Anglo, Super Bowl Sunday was their requested day off.
Rocky Dhir: Over Christmas?
Jake Monty: Over Christmas.
Rocky Dhir: Interesting, interesting. Now, Lia, talk to us for a second, and Jacob, you’re going to get the same question, talk to us for just a moment about maybe some of the common missteps people make when dealing with — Lia, in your case with those who have disabilities, persons with disabilities, are there some common mistakes people make that they need to be aware of, and then Jacob, we’re going to get to you and ask the same thing about the Spanish-speaking community.
Lia S. Davis: So I think first, of course, like I mentioned previously a common misstep might be not knowing what your legal obligations are.
Rocky Dhir: Sure.
Lia S. Davis: Okay, so setting that aside in terms of just normal everyday interactions, I don’t know that these are necessarily common but things that we should keep in mind in communicating with somebody with a disability or interacting with somebody with a disability, the first is that I think that there’s a tendency to try to talk down to somebody with a disability that it’s something that people do whether somebody who has a visual impairment or somebody uses a wheelchair to talk down to them kind of in a paternalistic or in a patronizing way.
So that’s something that we should be mindful of that the communication should just be the same. If somebody has a visual impairment, talk to them just like you would talk to anyone else. You don’t have to talk louder, you don’t have to enunciate more, and if somebody uses a wheelchair, you also talk to them just like you would talk to anybody else.
I think people have for whatever reason just a tendency to maybe based on discomfort or not knowing what to do change their type of communication, so that’s one thing that we should keep in mind.
The second I think that people always wonder about what kind of assistance that they should offer? Well, should I try to help this person, should I not try to help this person, I don’t want to offend anybody? And in terms of that, I think that offering assistance is always okay, but waiting to see if they actually need the assistance or what their response may be.
When I deal with clients and it appears that they might need help in some way whether it’s navigating down our hallway, if they have a visual impairment to get to our office or to get to my office rather or maybe need help holding the door, it’s never a problem for me to say, would you like help with this or just to hold the door for them, already, just like I would hold the door for anyone.
What is kind of crosses the line in terms of what clients come to me with feeling offended by or upset about is when people don’t treat them as if they are smart, and as if they are intelligent, and as if they are competent, making assumptions about someone’s abilities of intelligence just based on disability. That’s what really offends, really upsets, and really angers clients.
So that’s what we want to always be mindful of never making assumptions about someone’s intelligence based purely on disability.
Rocky Dhir: And Jacob, how about you with the Spanish-speaking community, are there common flubs or mistakes that to use the title of your book ‘Gringo’s’ or maybe those who are not members of the Spanish-speaking community often make?
Jake Monty: Sure. Again, it’s assumptions that are made and it may not be true or they could be just inaccurate. Sometimes, we, the employer won’t realize what type of Latino they’re dealing with. They assume everyone’s Mexican, calling someone who’s Mexican, Mexican is not a problem, it’s not a bad word, but if they’re from El Salvador, they may resent being called a Mexican because they’re not from Mexico, they’re from El Salvador.
Bothering to figure out where the people are originally from is important, it shows that you care. At the same time, employers in this area have to be careful about learning too much information because if you learn that the person is actually unauthorized to work in the US, you’re going to have to terminate him.
So employers have to be cautious about learning too much information because if they learn information that’s different from the payroll information, they may have to — they’re going to have to terminate the employee. So employers have a tough situation, a tough road to navigate there, but those are some examples.
Rocky Dhir: So last question for you guys. Are there any say online resources or any books, anything people can turn to, to kind of help themselves get more attuned to these different communities? So, Lia, let’s start with you. Any place you’d recommend people go?
Lia S. Davis: That’s a good question. I think that certainly our website at Disability Rights Texas might have some good ideas of different issues that people with disabilities might face. I think that talking with people with disabilities when you have an opportunity, a co-worker or if it comes up more naturally and really listening to their experience and their story to better understand what it’s like to navigate the world as a person with a disability is always useful of kind of having that first-hand experience.
And that’s actually one of the reasons why having access to employment is so important in that when people with disabilities are in a workplace, they get a chance to expose themselves and other people are exposed to them to see what it’s like to work alongside somebody with disability and that’s a really meaningful interaction because of the length of time that you’re with your coworkers.
Rocky Dhir: Absolutely, and Jacob, how about you? Any resources?
Jake Monty: Well, of course, I would recommend ‘The Gringo’s Guide to Hispanics in the Workplace’ by Jacob Monty. My other book, ‘The Sons of Wetbacks’ came out last year, it describes my own history with immigration and my five uncles who were definitely the sons of wetbacks but also all served in World War II, and it describes my history with immigration. So both books are good resources.
Rocky Dhir: Well, it looks like we’ve reached the end of our program. I want to thank you both. Thank you Jacob, thank you Lia, for joining us today.
Now, if our listeners have questions, if they wish to get some follow up, what’s the best way for them to reach you? Jacob, let’s start with you.
Jake Monty: [email protected] is my email and my firm is Monty & Ramirez in Houston, Texas.
Rocky Dhir: Wonderful. And, Lia, how about you?
Lia S. Davis: Yeah, I’d be happy to get emails. My email address is [email protected] and I’m always happy to talk with other attorneys about disability issues.
Rocky Dhir: Wonderful. Well, thank you. That is all the time we have for this episode of the State Bar of Texas Podcast brought to you by LawPay. Thank you again LawPay. Also, thank you to our listeners for tuning in.
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I’m Rocky Dhir, until next time, thanks for listening.
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