Wirth vs. Teach For America: Whistleblower fired for reporting web accessibility issues.

On October 31, 2017, Campins Benham-Baker filed a federal lawsuit against the nation’s largest education nonprofit Teach For America (TFA).

Former Director of Content Strategy Lisanne Wirth was wrongfully terminated in January 2016 in retaliation for reporting to the TFA leadership team that the TeachForAmerica.org website was not accessible for people with disabilities.  

Lawsuits against universities with inaccessible online videos  

After Harvard and M.I.T. were sued for inaccessible videos in June 2015, Wirth became concerned about TFA’s own compliance with web accessibility. She then realized TFA was talking about civil rights, diversity & inclusion, special education, and their Diverse Learners Initiative on pages that could not be used by people with disabilities.

“One Day, all children will have the opportunity to attain an excellent education.”  – Teach For America’s mission statement

Despite receiving a glowing performance review in Summer 2015, she believes her trouble began when she reported two serious issues shortly thereafter.

First, Wirth reported the accessibility issues with the website in August 2015. Then in October, she reported discrimination to her manager after hearing coded terms used in reference to the new Chief Diversity Officer, who is a Black woman. When she asked a marketing employee why there was pushback on developing the content that was promised for the executive, Wirth was told that “stories about Black teachers don’t perform well on social media.”

TFA has an ethical and legal responsibility to #MakeItAccessible

By law, and out of respect for “all children,” along with ethical responsibility to the taxpayers who fund the program, TFA must comply with the guidelines from the Department of Justice and the WCAG 2.0 and bring the entire website up to conformance level AA. Thus far, TFA has promised to do this in the Accessibility Policy added after Wirth was terminated by several deadlines that came and went with no significant changes to the website.

Recently, TFA has stopped even committing to dates and instead advises people with disabilities to send them emails if they can’t find or access a piece of content, which the DOJ has clearly said is NOT acceptable.  They were informed in writing of the inaccessible website in August 2015. The lawsuit was filed two years and two months from Wirth’s initial report, and the website is still not accessible.

Read the federal complaint and press release below for more information.   

For media inquiries, please contact Attorney Julia Campins: Julia@campinsbenhambaker.com

Federal complaint (PDF)
Press release (PDF)