Meet Marian Wright Edelman

Meet Marian Wright Edelman

In our final post celebrating Women’s History Month GaffneyLewis LLC is proud to introduce you to Marian Wright Edelman, an American activist for children’s rights.

Hailing from Bennettsville, South Carolina, Edelman was born on June 6, 1939, to Arthur Jerome Wright, a Baptist minister, and Maggie Leola Bowen.

Edelman has been a life-long advocate for disadvantaged Americans and is the founder of the Children’s Defense Fund. Her work in this area has influenced leaders including Martin Luther King Jr.

After graduating from high school in 1956 she attended Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia. Edelman was awarded a Merrill Scholarship which afforded her the opportunity to travel and study abroad. In 1959 she returned to Spelman for her senior year and became involved in the civil rights movement. In 1960, Edelman and 77 other students were arrested during a sit-in at segregated Atlanta restaurants.She graduated from Spelman as valedictorian of her class. She went on to study law and enrolled at Yale Law School earning her Juris Doctor in 1963. She would later become the first black woman elected to the Yale Board of Trustees (1971).

In 1964 Edelman became the first African American woman to be admitted to the Mississippi Bar and she started her legal career with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund representing civil rights activists.

Edelman first met her husband, Peter, an assistant to Robert F. Kennedy, when Kennedy was touring the Mississippi Delta. The two married in 1968 and relocated to Washington, D.C.

In 1968 Edelman founded the Washington Research Project, a public interest law firm. She also worked on the Poor People’s Campaign for Martin Luther King Jr. and became more involved in issues relating to childhood development and the protection of children.

As her activism and support for underprivileged children advanced, Edelman founded the Children’s Defense Fund to be a voice for children of color, poor children, and those with disabilities. Edelman was instrumental in getting the United State Congress to overhaul the foster care system, and to protect children who are disabled, homeless, or abused.

Edelman is also the author of several books focusing on the importance of children’s rights and protecting them. Her passion for children and the lifelong journey to protect them is reflected in her words, “as adults, we are responsible for meeting the needs of children. It is our moral obligation. We brought about their births and their lives, and they cannot fend for themselves.”

In 2020, Edelman became president emerita of the Children’s Defense Fund, but her passion for the work and commitment to children continues.

Thank you, Marian Wright Edelman for the being the light for the children who need it. You have touched so many lives and your work will continue for years to come.

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COVID-19 and Temperature Checks – Five Questions Employers Should Consider

As employers adjust to operating within the limitations posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of businesses that choose to conduct temperature checks of its visitors and employees, has increased significantly. Many overlook how technology has allowed a person’s body temperature to be taken in an instant. The now seemingly archaic thermometer inserted into a person’s mouth has been replaced with a contactless, digital body temperature reading by way of a forehead scan often conducted by a security guard. The temperature check has become a widespread practice and is no longer solely thought of as a precursor to seeing a doctor before a full medical examination.

However, according to the EEOC, taking an employee’s body temperature is a medical examination. Further, the EEOC has made clear that, as with all medical information, the fact an employee had a fever or other COVID-19 related symptoms can be subject to confidentiality requirements under the Americans With Disabilities Act (the “ADA”). This issue raises a number of important questions as it relates to ADA compliance in the workplace. Below are answers to five common questions employers subject to the ADA should be mindful of as employees return to work. Generally, any business that employs 15 or more persons for 20 or more weeks in the current or preceding calendar year is subject to federal employment laws, including the ADA.

1. During a pandemic, may an ADA-covered employer take its employees’ temperatures to determine whether they have a fever?

Yes, at this time. Generally, measuring an employee’s body temperature is a medical examination. However, because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the “CDC”) and state/local health authorities have acknowledged community spread of COVID-19 and issued attendant precautions as of March 2020, employers may measure an employee’s body temperature to determine whether they may pose a risk of having or speeding COVID-19. As with all medical information, the fact that an employee had a fever or other symptoms would be subject to ADA confidentiality requirements. Employers should be aware that some people who do not have a fever may still have COVID-19.

2. May an employer take an applicant’s temperature as part of a post-offer, pre-employment medical exam?

Yes. Medical exams, including taking an employee’s temperature, are permitted after an employer has made a conditional offer of employment. However, employers should be aware that some people with COVID-19 do not have a fever.

3. May an ADA-covered employer send employees home if they display influenza-like symptoms during a pandemic?

Yes. The CDC states that employees who become ill with symptoms of influenza-like illness at work during a pandemic should leave the workplace. Advising such workers to go home is not a disability-related action during the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, the employee’s removal would be permitted under the ADA if the illness were serious enough to pose a direct threat. Applying this principle to current CDC guidance on COVID-19, this means an employer can require an employee with COVID-19 or symptoms associated with COVID-19 to leave the workplace.

4. During a pandemic, how much information may an ADA-covered employer request from employees who report feeling ill at work or who call in sick?

ADA-covered employers may ask such employees if they are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, such as fever. Employers must maintain all information about employee illness as a confidential medical record in compliance with the ADA. Employers may ask employees questions about their symptoms to determine if they have or may have COVID-19 after they report feeling ill at work or call in sick. Currently, these symptoms include fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, or sore throat. Moreover, an employer may require an employee test negative for COVID-19 prior to returning to work.

5. During a pandemic, may an employer require its employees to wear personal protective equipment (“PPE”) such as face masks, gloves, or gowns designed to reduce the transmission of COVID-19?

Yes. An employer may require employees to wear PPE during the pandemic. However, an employer should provide a related reasonable accommodation under the ADA (e.g., non-latex gloves, or gowns designed for individuals who use wheelchairs) if an employee with a disability needs these, absent undue hardship.

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Meet Eartha Kitt

Meet Eartha Kitt – Actress, Activist and Superstar

​In our continued celebration of Women’s History Month GaffneyLewis LLC is proud to shine the light on Eartha Kitt (born Eartha Mae Keith; January 17, 1927 – December 25, 2008). Kitt was an American singer, actress, dancer, voice actress, comedienne, activist, author, and songwriter.

Hailing from North, South Carolina, Kitt played Cat Woman on the final season of Batman; and her beautiful, growly voice is the one we hear on the original Christmas favorite, “Santa Baby.”

Kitt was an activist. She spoke publicly against the Vietnam War.  For many years, she fought for LGBTQ rights. She also started the Kittsville Youth Foundation and Rebels with a Cause, which were non-profit organizations focused on helping underprivileged youths who worked together to clean up depressed parts of Los Angeles (Watts) and Washington, D.C. (Anacostia) and establish recreation areas for the youth in these areas.

Said Kitt,

 “We’re all rejected people, we know what it is to be refused, we know what it is to be oppressed, depressed, and then, accused, and I am very much cognizant of that feeling.  Nothing in the world is more painful than rejection.  I am a rejected, oppressed person, and so I understand them, as best as I can, even though I am a heterosexual.”

She accomplished much in her life and was generous in her support of others, but it is Kitt’s sense of empathy and acceptance that makes her a superstar.

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Augusta Braxton Baker – Pioneer for Black Librarianship

March is Women’s History Month commemorating and encouraging the study, observance and celebration of the vital role of women in American history. As a South Carolina women-owned, ethnically diverse law firm, GaffneyLewis, LLC is proud to shine the light on some of the women who blazed the trail before them.

Meet Augusta Baker

Augusta Braxton Baker was a pioneer for black librarianship.

She was the first black person to earn a B.S. in library and information studies from SUNY Albany. Baker spent most of her career working in the New York Public Library system (37 years) in many roles, including Children’s librarian, storytelling specialist, assistant coordinator of children’s services, and coordinator of children’s services. 

During her career she became the first African American Coordinator of Children’s Services for all 82 libraries within the New York Public Library system. In this role, and throughout her career, Baker worked to diversify the genre of children’s literature and to make books for young readers more reflective of the young people who read them. 

Baker’s love of books extended into writing. As an author, she wrote “Books about Negro Life for Children” (later renamed “The Black Experience in Children’s Books”), the first extensive bibliography of children’s books that featured positive black role models.

In 1980, after a remarkable career, Augusta Baker moved to Columbia, South Carolina. She became the University of South Carolina’s storyteller-in-residence. She served in this role for 14 years, continuing to influence the youth of South Carolina and beyond.

Augusta Baker died on February 23, 1998. Truly an innovator, her life’s work lives on through the Augusta Baker Collection of Children’s Literature and Folklore and the “Baker’s Dozen: A Celebration of Stories,” which is an annual storytelling festival sponsored by the School of Library and Information Science, College of Information and Communications, and the Richland Library. The University of South Carolina School of Information Science also established the Augusta Baker Endowed Chair in her honor.

Well done, Augusta Braxton Baker, well done.

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Remote Mediation Using Zoom and Other Virtual Programs

Remote Mediation South Carolina

The coronavirus pandemic has forced many industries to conduct much of their business remotely. The legal profession, and particularly mediation, is no exception. Nonetheless, some attorneys and their clients remain wary of remote mediation. Is the technology reliable? Is it secure? Will all parties be fully engaged in the mediation? Here we address some of these concerns and provide tips for making the process a success.

As mediators, we’ve seen a number of technology concerns with respect to remote mediations. Here are the most common ones, along with our recommendations:

  • Do I (or my client) already have to be familiar with Zoom or other programs? Virtual programs like Zoom are not difficult to use, so you don’t need prior experience with them to mediate. But there are some tips to keep in mind to make the experience effective. For instance, with Zoom, only the person speaking will have the ability to use the microphone so others cannot interrupt. In our experience, once parties begin using virtual programs like Zoom, they almost forget they are mediating remotely.
  • What happens if I don’t have a reliable internet connection? You will need access to secure encrypted WIFI, which excludes using the internet in a public place like a coffee shop. But attempting to mediate in a public place isn’t recommended anyway due to confidentiality concerns and distractions. Poor internet connection can affect the mediation, so check with your internet service provider before mediation to ensure there won’t be any scheduled outages, maintenance, or other issues. In the event of an outage, parties have been able to rejoin the conference with only a brief interruption in most cases.
  • What sort of camera do I need, and is the one on my phone good enough? It’s recommended that mediation participants use a desktop or laptop computer with a working camera and microphone. An alternative is a tablet (e.g. iPad) or smartphone, which participants should have anyway as a backup. In case the internet or other technology becomes an issue, a smartphone will allow the mediation to continue.
  • Are Zoom and other programs secure and confidential? Virtual programs like Zoom are safe when used with password protection and waiting rooms to monitor access. The more pressing security and confidentiality issues come from reliability of the internet connection more than the programs themselves. Remember, however, that mediation is highly confidential and recording it is strictly prohibited. Rules like these are more of a firewall to protect the security and confidentiality of all participants.

In our experience conducting remote mediations, we’ve observed that attorneys and clients become more comfortable once they begin the process and realize it’s not as daunting as it may seem. But still the question remains: is remote mediation truly effective? Can the parties really be engaged when they’re not all in the same place?

The answer is yes, provided that all participants observe some basic ground rules:

  • Everyone should take reasonable steps to minimize distractions. Find a quiet room in your home or business that will serve as a distraction-free zone. It needs to be a place where you can close the door to ensure privacy. Don’t attempt to do other work, use social media or other technology, or allow interruptions during the mediation.
  • Body language is a key variable in mediation. Other participants need to see you so they can trust the process. In real life this is a given, but it shouldn’t be sacrificed in the remote setting. Thus, all participants should join by video and not rely on audio only and while actively participating, should remain seated in front of the camera, not standing, walking around the room, or off camera. Of course, there are many breaks during the mediation process that will allow for movement away from the camera as long as the volume is on so that the parties can hear when they are needed.
  • Pick a room with a wall behind you, not a window. A window can create distracting backlight and make it difficult for other participants to see you. Everyone must be able to see everyone else for remote mediation to succeed.
  • All mediation participants must be disclosed ahead of time, which means having any unauthorized third parties in the room is strictly prohibited. The parties will have agreed to this basic rule in advance, and it will be rigorously enforced.
  • All participants must be available at all times throughout the mediation. In other words, the experience needs to be as close to real life as possible. Participants should not be taking phone calls, stepping out of the room, or otherwise unavailable. Even though you are in a private room, behave as if your boss could walk in unannounced at any moment.

Here at GaffneyLewis, LLC, our approach to mediation has adapted to meet the needs of the attorney and parties we serve as we continue to navigate the coronavirus pandemic. We are proud members of the National Academy of Distinguished Neutrals and our objective is to ensure that the attorneys and their clients get the most possible out of remote mediation. But we recognize that not everyone is familiar with the process and may still have questions about it. We encourage you, if mediation is in your near future, to give us a call to learn more or schedule with our certified mediators online at https://nadn.org/regina-lewis and https://www.scmediators.org/amy-gaffney.

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GaffneyLewis Partner, Amy Gaffney, Inducted into National Academy of Distinguished Neutrals

(February 1, 2021) – GaffneyLewis, LLC is pleased to announce that Amy Gaffney has been inducted into the National Academy of Distinguished Neutrals (NADN).

NADN membership is by invitation only and limited to professional mediators and arbitrators who are well established as trusted neutrals among the legal community within their state of practice.  All Academy members have been found to meet stringent practice criteria and are among the most in-demand neutrals in their respective states, as nominated by both peers and litigation firms.

“It’s an honor to be recognized for my mediation practice and included among such highly-regarded mediators,” said Gaffney.

Only 34 attorneys in South Carolina have been accepted in the Academy and Gaffney is the 4th female attorney to be included. Her partner, Regina Hollins Lewis, is also a member, having been inducted in 2019.

Gaffney, a founding partner working in the firm’s Charleston office, has been a certified mediator since 1995 and has been involved in the resolution of hundreds of state and federal employment and tort cases. A litigation attorney, Gaffney also represents individuals and companies throughout the state of South Carolina in employment and tort matters.

Lewis, a founding partner based out of the firm’s Columbia office, is also a certified mediator and regularly mediates employment and tort matters across the state. In addition to her mediation practice, Lewis has over 33 years of civil litigation and appellate experience.

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