Shirley Lin Examines Remote Work as Mass Accommodation

Shirley Lin (’11), Assistant Professor of Law at Brooklyn Law School, was quoted by YES! Magazine discussing how the pandemic created a “mass accommodation” in remote work representing a “move away from an individual, rights-based model of disability in the workplace to a larger cultural, social model” affecting the workforce and society at large (“Reworking Remote,” May 23). Citing the “huge potential cultural shift,” Shirley explained, “If there’s an event that affects everyone and there’s a solution that might address it in a way that preserves health and well-being, why not provide a mass accommodation relying on the infrastructure and process usually created on an individual basis and allow everyone to do what they do from home to the extent it’s possible? . . . For teaching, that turned out to be absolutely possible, particularly teaching adults in a legal education setting.” Shirley also addressed the question: Who really benefits from remote work? “The fact that in nine out of 10 industries in which there was the highest level of COVID deaths were industries in which Black workers are predominant is incredibly telling, because it rests on this history of racial capitalism in which hard labor, manual labor, labor that is associated often with nonwhite communities …could not be outsourced,” she explained. “When essential workers who continued to show up to work during the pandemic physically were celebrated, they actually had their exposure to severe harm and death become the very reason they were deemed essential.” Shirley concluded, “There were multiple, basically mass-structural accommodations during COVID that still broke along lines of privilege.”