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K&L Gates’ Craig Leen Joins Board of Advisors at RespectAbility

Craig Leen smiling headshot wearing glasses and a suit and tie

Craig Leen

Washington, D.C., Oct. 7 – Craig Leen, Partner at K&L Gates LLC, based in its Washington, D.C., office, has joined the board of advisors at RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization that fights stigmas and advances opportunities so people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of community. Leen is an experienced attorney, administrator, and academic, who has served in government at the federal, county, and municipal levels, as well as in the private sector. Prior to joining K&L Gates, Leen served as Director of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) in the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL).

“Craig’s dedication to equity in the workforce is vital to the advancement of civil rights and opportunities for disabled people in the workforce,” says Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, President of RespectAbility. “And we are thrilled that he will be joining our board.”

During his time at the DOL, Leen worked to ensure compliance by federal contractors with equal employment opportunity, affirmative action, and non-discrimination obligations, as well as issued regulations and public facing directives. He also led the agency in compliance manual updates, the development of comprehensive technical assistance guides, and the creation of the Contractor Assistance Portal. While at the DOL, Leen was also named the recipient of the Secretary’s Exceptional Achievement Award – Professional.

“I’m honored and excited to be joining RespectAbility’s board of advisors,” says Leen. “Disability inclusion and accessibility is such an important national priority and has been a key focus of my work as a public official and now in the private sector. I’ve sought to advance equal employment opportunity in the workplace at each stage of my career, most recently through advising businesses on compliance and best practices, including building comprehensive diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) programs, which is a value I know I share with RespectAbility – and I am excited to continue building on our work together.”

Prior to joining the DOL, Leen served as City Attorney for the City of Coral Gables, where he provided legal supervision to internal and external counsel on compliance with federal and state laws, including the ADA, Title VI, Title VII, and other civil rights regulations. He also advised on matters involving government procurement, land use and zoning, constitutional and civil rights law, appellate proceedings, code enforcement, ethics, and home rule powers, among others. Previously, Leen was Chief of the Appeals Section and Chief of the Federal Litigation Section for the Miami-Dade County Attorney’s Office, the sixth largest county in the U.S. Leen is well-known for developing comprehensive and award-winning disability inclusion programs both for the OFCCP and City of Coral Gables.

At K&L Gates, Leen is part of the Labor, Employment, and Workplace Safety Practice Group, where he advises businesses on compliance with equal employment opportunity laws and developing comprehensive DEIA programs, including disability inclusion programs.

Leen also serves on the Disability:IN DC Metro advisory board, the Circa board, the Eightfold advisory board, the faculty of the Institute for Workplace Equality, and as a Professorial Lecturer in Law at The George Washington University Law School.

In addition to Leen, two other industry leaders have joined RespectAbility’s board of advisors, including Karen Horne, Senior Vice President of Equity and Inclusion at WarnerMedia; Stacie de Armas, Senior Vice President, Diverse Consumer Insights & Initiatives, DEI Practice at Nielsen. Also at this time, Ollie Cantos, a blind civil rights attorney who was ABC News Person of the Week, was promoted from Vice Chair to Chair, as the organization’s current Chair, Steve Bartlett’s term came to a close.

As Cantos rises, two new Vice Chairs have been elected: Delbert Whetter, a deaf film executive, and Randall Duchesneau, a founding member of the United Spinal Association Greater Philadelphia Chapter, who is quadriplegic from a spinal cord injury during gymnastics. They join Vivian Bass, who continues her tenure as Vice Chair. Linda L. Burger was reelected as Treasurer and Ila Eckhoff is RespectAbility’s new Secretary.

About RespectAbility

RespectAbility is a diverse and disability-led nonprofit that works to create systemic change in how society views and values people with disabilities and that advances policies and practices that empower people with disabilities to have a better future. Our mission is to fight stigmas and advance opportunities so people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of community.

The following are RespectAbility’s core programmatic areas:

  • Entertainment and News Media: Increase diverse and authentic representation of disabled people in media so people with disabilities are seen for what they can do, instead of what they cannot.
  • Leadership: Enable diverse people with disabilities to participate fully in decision-making.
  • Policy: Promote best practices in education, employment, entrepreneurship, civic engagement, and access.
  • Faith Inclusion: Ensure the inclusion of people with disabilities in faith-based communities.

Meet the Author

Lauren Appelbaum

Lauren Appelbaum is the Vice President, Communications, of RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for and with people with disabilities, and managing editor of The RespectAbility Report, a publication at the intersection of disability and politics. Previously she was a digital researcher with the NBC News political unit. As an individual with an acquired invisible disability - Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy - she writes about the intersection of disability, employment, Hollywood and politics. From entertainment professionals to presidential campaigns, journalists to philanthropists, she conducts trainings on the why and how to be more inclusive and accessible. Behind the scenes in the entertainment industry, Appelbaum engages decision makers and creatives to improve the quality and number of authentic, diverse and inclusive presentations of people with disabilities on TV and film so audiences can see people with disabilities as vital contributors in America and around the world. She and her team have consulted on projects with Amazon, Disney/ABC Television, NBCUniversal, Netflix, and The Walt Disney Studios, among others. Appelbaum also enriches the pool of disabled talent in Hollywood by nurturing and connecting them to those who can assist with their careers, both on the creative and business sides of the industry. She is the author of The Hollywood Disability Inclusion Toolkit, which was created to help entertainment professionals to be as inclusive of people with disabilities as possible, and the creator of an innovative Lab Program for entertainment professionals with disabilities working behind the camera. To reach her, email LaurenA@RespectAbility.org.

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