A moving letter from a “Witness”

This is a letter we received from a reader of Call To Witness. We have expressed our gratitude for the letter privately with them. With the reader’s consent, I am posting it here to share with you the words of personal struggle expressed in the letter, most important, the reader’s spirit and personal empowerment.

Dear Ms. Blackman, Ms. Gagliardo, and Mr. Reilly,

I recently read Call to Witness, and would like to express my appreciation to each of you for the inspiration that this book provided me. Together, you formed a formidable team that continues to impart strength to others through the telling of your story. My thanks go, also, to all of those who accompanied you on your journey to justice.

The attributes I came to most admire while reading the book are:

Ms. Blackman’s talent and dedication,
Ms. Gagliardo’s courage and determination, and
Mr. Reilly’s expertise and astute timing.

The combination of these attributes creates a powerful framework for those of us struggling with health care issues. I am the health care advocate for my husband, who has had multiple sclerosis for almost 30 years and now, at age 52, lives in a long-term care facility. I am also the advocate for my elderly father and aunt. I am recovering from a car accident of four years ago that stole me away from my teaching career. My injuries were suspect in the eyes of the disability insurance company, and I had to endure the indignity of proving that I did suffer a disability. Thankfully, I had employers who believed in me and an attorney who fought for me. I am gradually working to return to the career that I love, and I feel empowered by your message.

Thank you for sharing your story of endurance and triumph. I am recommending Call to Witness to friends and family members.


A Witness


“Call to Witness” Receives High Reviews and Rankings on Amazon

When Attorney Patrick J. Reilly consulted with author Sherry Blackman for her book Call to Witness, a true story based on one of Reilly’s cases, he didn’t expect the book to receive the high accolades it has from readers and sellers alike.

The text is currently ranked as #24 in the Best Sellers list for Disability Law and #37 for Discrimination Constitutional Law.  The book has also received an average 5 out of 5 star rating by Amazon readers.

You can read the reviews on Amazon.com here→

Call to Witness details the true story of Jane Gagliardo‘s struggle with discrimination at the hands of her employer and her triumph over one of the biggest pharmaceutical giants with the help of Attorney Reilly and his team.


Compassion or Fear?

Years ago, while I was living in an apartment in Newport, Rhode Island, and attending nursing school, a local woman by the name Maria and I became best of friends and eventually roommates. She was Portuguese, with thick black hair, full lips, and a curvaceous body. Warm, beautiful, and exuberant, every guy who met her literally drooled over her, including my own brother. Maria would come and visit me often, walking the four blocks from her home and back again, oftentimes in the dark.

Women, young and old and in-between, all share a fear when walking alone at night. They fear being attached, raped, killed.  According to a sociological study I read years ago, this is the number one fear of women. Men’s number one fear? Being laughed at.

I asked Maria one night as she was about to leave the apartment if she was afraid. The Navy station wasn’t far away. One of my fellow nursing students had been attached one night in the dorm not long before. Someone followed her home, watched for her light to go on, and when she fell asleep, lifted the window and beat her head with a stick with a nail in it. She almost died.

My apartment was right across the street from the dorm that once served as the original hospital. This is what Maria told me: “When I walk home at night, I walk with one stiff leg so that anyone who passes me thinks I am disabled.”

I laughed and wondered at the wisdom of doing such. Like most, I had a mother who taught me “not to stare” at anyone who might be different than me–the deaf kid who talked differently, or the obese guy, or the man who had a disease that made walking difficult, if not impossible.

But I wanted to stare. I wanted to stare into the mystery that presented itself.  I wondered what would it be like to not be able to see, to trust a dog to lead you across a dangerous road?  What would it be like to have to be carried or carted wherever I went because my legs didn’t work, or had been cut off, or were never there in the first place?

But I remember feeling then, and still do, a sharp stabbing pain in my chest when I saw such a person.  I wanted to acknowledge them without making them feel bad about themselves. I wanted to have a conversation with them, find out what it was like to be them.  Teaching me not to stare may have been good manners, undoubtedly, but it also made me afraid to show compassion of which I had, and have, an overabundance. Such “manners” taught me to be “uncomfortable” around those who were disabled in some way, ill-equipped and insecure on how to be “comfortable.”

Maybe it’s time to encourage a greater dialogue between those who are disabled and those who aren’t so that the world would stop pretending not to see and stop being so afraid.

Book Signing Event in Sparta NJ

I’m happy to announce I will be signing copies of Call to Witness at Sparta Books in Sparta NJ on Thursday October 24th from 6:30PM until 8PM. Please stop by with your copy and say hello. More information is available here→ Thank you and I hope to see you there. Sherry Blackman.

University of Texas v. Nassar

A Message from Patrick Reilly

On Monday, June 24, 2013, the United States Supreme Court, in the case of University of Texas v. Nassar, made it more difficult for employees claiming retaliation in the workplace to prove their damages.  Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits wrongful discrimination in the Nation’s workplaces and in all sectors of economic endeavor. There are two categories of wrongful employer conduct prohibited by Title VII. Status-based discrimination refers to basic workplace protection such as prohibitions against employer discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, in hiring, firing, salary structure, promotion and the like. The second type of conduct is employer retaliation on account of an employee’s having opposed, complained of, or sought remedies for, unlawful workplace discrimination.

For status- based discrimination, in order to prove a claim, it is sufficient to show that the motive to discriminate was one of the employer’s motives, even if the employer also had other, lawful motives that were causative in the employer’s decision. Prior to the University of Texas decision, some courts applied the same standard to retaliation claims, but that will no longer be.

It is now clear that in order to establish a Title VII retaliation claim, the traditional principles of but-for causation, not Title VII’s lessened causation test applicable to status-based discrimination apply.  This requires proof that the unlawful retaliation would not have occurred in the absence of the alleged wrongful action or actions of the employer.  The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is not affected by this decision, as it specifically provides that all claims, including claims of retaliation related to an (ADA) complaint, need only prove that the motive to discriminate was one of the employee’s motives.

The majority of the Supreme Court Justices were swayed by the number of retaliation claims filed in comparison to status-based discrimination claims, causing a strain on the judicial and litigation systems. The number of retaliation claims has nearly doubled in the last 15 years, and more retaliation claims are filed than all status-based claims of discrimination other than race. It is now up to Congress, if it deems appropriate, to amend Title VII to address this causation issue.