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Title VI Coordinators (Transit): We offer assistance developing your LEP plans and procedures

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Executive Order 13166 apply to federally-assisted transit programs and activities, and these laws require that you conduct a four-factor analysis of the limited English proficient (LEP) populations in your service area, and develop a plan and procedures to ensure meaningful access to information and a meaningful opportunity to participate in your transit programs and activities. We will work with you to conduct the four-factor analysis, and develop an LEP plan and procedures tailored to the structure of your organization, and the nature of the transit programs and activities you offer.

Our customers appreciate the thoroughness and timeliness of our work. As an example, one senior county executive commented, “Your procedures document is very comprehensive and inclusive of all that I am aware that we need and beyond . . . it is a pleasure working with you.”

About Seena Foster.

Seena Foster received her undergraduate degree from Michigan State University and, in 1989, she received her Juris Doctorate from The George Washington University Law School.

In 2003, Ms. Foster served as a Senior Policy Analyst to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Civil Rights Center (CRC). In that capacity, she led a team of equal opportunity specialists to conduct disability-based technical assistance reviews of One-Stop centers, and she assisted the CRC’s leadership in preparing for limited English proficiency-based compliance reviews. Ms. Foster also analyzed and weighed witness statements and documents to prepare numerous final determinations for signature by the CRC Director, which resolved discrimination complaints under a variety of federal civil rights laws such as Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, the Age Discrimination Act, the Rehabilitation Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and Section 188 of the Workforce Investment Act. In 2006, Ms. Foster received the Secretary of Labor’s Equal Employment Opportunity Award in recognition of “exceptional efforts to ensure that individuals with disabilities have full access to employment and related services and benefits at the Nation’s One-Stop Career Centers.” And, at the request of the CRC, Ms. Foster served as a popular workshop speaker at national equal opportunity forums co-sponsored by the CRC and the National Association of State Workforce Agencies. Her presentations covered topics such as the WIA Section 188 disability checklist, conducting discrimination complaint investigations and writing final determinations, and conducting investigations of allegations involving harassment and hostile environment.

With a passion for ensuring nondiscrimination and equal opportunity in the delivery of federally-assisted programs and activities, Ms. Foster remains highly active in the field through her series of on-demand webcasts for equal opportunity professionals as well as providing mediation services, training, document reviews, and assistance developing policies and procedures designed to ensure compliance with applicable federal civil rights laws. Her training in the areas of compliance and complaint investigations has been described as “dynamic,” “hitting the nail on the head,” “well-organized,” and “informative.” And, her award-winning book on conducting discrimination complaint investigations is viewed as “eye-opening” and “the best on the market.”

In 2007, Ms. Foster was certified as a mediator by the Virginia Supreme Court, and later obtained “Federal Workplace Mediation” certification through the Northern Virginia Mediation Service. Presently, she volunteers at Carpenter’s Shelter in Alexandria, Virginia, and serves on its Development Committee and Major Donors and Partners Subcommittee. In addition, Ms. Foster serves on the Economic Opportunities Commission for Alexandria, Virginia, which addresses availability of housing and jobs for economically-disadvantaged persons. In 2013, Ms. Foster received the City of Alexandria’s “Joan White Grass Roots Service Award” for her commitment of time and effort “working to improve the lives of the homeless as well as advocating their needs and the mission of Carpenter’s Shelter in the community.” She is a member of the Discrimination Law and Human Rights Law Committees of the International Bar Association. And, Title VI Consulting, LLP is an affiliate of the National Association of State Workforce Agencies (NASWA) offering equal opportunity and nondiscrimination consultation services in the area of workforce development. Finally, in November 2011, Ms. Foster was selected as a lifetime member of the Cambridge Who’s Who among Executives, Professionals, and Entrepreneurs based on her “accomplishments, talents, and knowledge in the area of civil rights.”

You may contact her through www.titleviconsulting.com.

Elements of an Inclusive Workforce Development System

Monday, December 30th, 2013

The following remarks were delivered by Ms. Foster at NASWA’s 2013 EO Conference in Washington, DC:

It is a privilege for me to be here today, and this has been such an impressive line-up of civil rights experts. While the presence of these experts today is due partly to the hard work of Chair Valdez and NASWA’s EO Committee, Mr. Wehbey, and staff members at NASWA, the biggest draw for these experts is each of you.

In the few remaining minutes we have, I am going to put the visions of the civil rights speakers we’ve heard from today into focus for you so, when this conference is over and you go back to the business of looking at what is happening on the ground in your community, you’ll have a clear understanding of the key elements of an inclusive workforce system.

The importance of you and the equal opportunity work you perform in the field of workforce development at this pivotal time in our country’s history cannot be overstated. If we hope to have a stronger, more stable economy at the national level, it must start with you at the local level.

Underlying everything we do in the field of equal opportunity is the concept that we don’t leave segments of our population behind to dead end. We want to help folks in our communities get jobs, or get better jobs. We want to find a way for all members of our community to engage and be productive, contributing citizens.

The vast majority of us and vast majority of the citizens in our communities are not independently wealthy. So, if we aren’t working, we aren’t earning money. And, if we aren’t earning money, we aren’t able to put a roof over our heads, food on the table, or clothes on our backs. And, where does that lead? Logically, it leads to increased demand on our safety net programs—homeless shelters or public housing, food stamps, free medical care, the list goes on.

No one has ever been able to explain to me how a stronger, more stable economy is built on leaving segments of a community behind in our workforce development programs whether it is women, minorities, limited English proficient persons, persons with disabilities, folks of a certain age, Veterans, or folks of certain religious beliefs.

Getting systems in place to move all of our populations forward, and training staff on the use of these systems, is where we need to spend a little time and thought as equal opportunity professionals. Not every customer is going to move along the same track, or at the same pace. The point is to get them moving as opposed to setting them off to the side to dead end.

As you work to develop inclusive workforce development systems, keep in mind these four core elements—communication, access, integration, and individualized treatment—must be front and center in your planning. Every speaker here today has addressed one or more of these elements. And, I am going to briefly describe each of these elements, and why they are important.

Communication

Communication takes two forms. First, is the one most of us think of immediately; that is, being able to understand what a customer is saying, and ensuring the customer understands us. So, if establishing that baseline communication with our customer means using a sign language interpreter, or a language line, than that is what needs to happen.

Now, the next level of communication involves “notice.” Notice to the public of what programs we have to offer, notice about how to access our programs, and notice that we operate these programs in compliance with the nondiscrimination and equal opportunity mandates of WIA Section 188. Providing notice includes prominently displaying that “Equal Opportunity Is the Law” notice wherever we do business, and publishing our discrimination complaint procedures and forms.

On the other end of things, notice also includes making sure employers, to the extent they use screening tools like e-Verify or criminal background checks, give notice of any disqualifying adverse information to the potential applicant and allow the applicant an opportunity to explain or dispute it.

So, an inclusive workforce development program means we are able to communicate with our customers, and we convey important notices to them about their rights and our obligations under the nondiscrimination and equal opportunity provisions of WIA Section 188.

Access

Access is another core element of an inclusive program. Access means folks have access to apply for, or participate in, our programs or activities. And, denial of access can take a variety of shapes.

One example is holding a training course on the first floor of a building, but folks have to get up the two steps at the entrance to the building. Without a ramp, some folks with mobility impairments, who qualify to take this course, would be denied access to participate.

Another example of denial of access is one that I came across when I visited a particular locality to conduct training. The job referral counselor at the center would not even consider women for construction-related training or apprenticeship programs in welding, carpentry, masonry, and so on. Here, women who met the essential eligibility requirements for such training were denied access to even to apply for these programs.

And, access is a rising issue as we move forward with more internet-based application and enrollment processes. We are at the very beginning of what I describe as the incoming technology tsunami. The harnessing and use of various technologies on the market will undoubtedly strengthen many aspects of our workforce development programs and activities by building in efficiencies at a greater savings of staffing and money resources.

We’ve already seen the use of technology increase exponentially in the processing of unemployment insurance claims. And, the use of technology is growing in other areas such as computerized matching of a customer’s skills to available jobs in the market.

While these advances work for the vast majority of our populations, certain segments of our community’s population will be left behind. Persons with certain disabilities, and folks who are not able to read or write English very well could be denied access to programs for which they would otherwise be qualified.

I’ve heard some folks ask, why should we build systems around the exceptions? These folks need to come into the 21st Century.

Keep in mind, there is room in this country for all of us. Not every job out there requires an IT background, or access to the Internet. Not every job requires the ability to read, write, or speak English. Landscapers, cleaners, movers, certain construction trades, and caregivers are some examples of occupations that may not require IT savvy, access to the internet, or the ability to speak or understand English.

And, you’ve got some folks who are IT-savvy and understand English but, for example, they have a disability and need some type of auxiliary aid or service to navigate the internet application process.

The key here is to figure out what safety valves can be put in place in your particular community to ensure these populations aren’t left out. And, I think this is an excellent opportunity for the kinds of civil rights experts we’ve heard from today to establish a working group that includes folks like you and other interested stakeholders to work collaboratively to come up with some “best practices,” develop low or no cost resources, and generate ideas for resource-sharing and partnerships in our communities, to get these safety valves in place.

Integration

Beyond communication and access, we have the element of integration.

Decades ago, “Separate but Equal” was considered an acceptable way of doing business—whites could go to certain schools, blacks could go to other schools. Wisdom prevailed and we learned as a society that it is not healthy to divide ourselves by the color of our skin. Each of us has value beyond these surface qualities.

Unfortunately, the “Separate but Equal” concept is still with us, but it has morphed into other areas.

I’ll give you an example.

Too often, our workforce development programs are designed to channel persons with disabilities into separate tracks out of the gate. Regardless of the disability, or what the customer would like to do, we channel the customer to a single person at the center, or to rehabilitative services.

Earlier this year, I was asked to conduct some training at a particular locality and visited one of its centers to gather a better understanding of how that locality operated its workforce development programs. The center had four job referral counselors. However, any person with a disability, regardless of the disability, would be referred to the one counselor designated as the “disability job referral counselor.” And, if that counselor was in a meeting, out of the office, or otherwise unavailable, the person with a disability had to make an appointment to come back another day.

On this particular day, a customer who was deaf came in and handed the greeter a resume and a card asking for sign language interpreter services so he could meet with a job referral counselor.

The “disability job referral counselor” at the center was out on vacation, one other counselor had a customer in her office, and two counselors were available.

At first, the center manager was going to ask the gentleman to reschedule a time the following week when the disability job referral counselor had returned from vacation.

But, after a little discussion, the center manager called for a sign language interpreter who would arrive in the next 30 to 40 minutes. And, the manager had one of the available counselors at the center call the relay line in the meantime to get the process started.

As an aside, I’ll tell you that the customer on this particular day was a CPA and had advanced degrees in accounting as well as executive level accounting experience for a large company. He had relocated because of his wife’s change of jobs, and wanted assistance finding a job in his new community.

Here, the center provided assistance to him on the day he came, and did not ask that he make an appointment to come back in one or two weeks when the “disability job referral counselor” returned from vacation.

So, offering integrated services means here that each counselor should be able to take each customer in order, without regard to whether the person has a disability, is limited English proficient, is a Veteran, is a woman, and so on.

Individualized treatment

Finally, in addition to communication, access, and integration, our systems need to be designed provide individualized treatment.

The purpose of our workforce development programs is to move folks from unemployment to employment, or to transition folks from certain jobs to better jobs.

If someone comes to one of your centers directly, or comes through the unemployment insurance portal, individualized treatment requires that we start with that individual’s baseline.

What does this mean? It means we take an individual as we find him or her and work from there. We ask the customer, what skills, education, interests, and talents do you bring to the table?

At the other end of the spectrum, we take a look around to see what jobs are in our community and the skills and education required for those jobs. If we find a match, we make a referral.

If we don’t find a match, we look to bridge the gap. The first step across the bridge for some customers may be the local community college to obtain a certification, diploma, or degree. For others, the first step may be attending English as a Second Language classes.

But, keep in mind that not everyone is cut out for these types of educational pursuits. We don’t have to force all of our customers into the school or college pipeline for workforce development.

We’ve got other pipelines. Apprenticeships to learn a trade, on-the-job training, and licensing programs are some examples.

Keep in mind, folks don’t come to us out of nowhere—they have histories, they have skills, they have interests. Our job is to figure out what they bring to the table in terms of skills, education, and experience, and what workforce development pipelines would be suitable given their background and interests. And, if figuring out what someone brings to the table requires the use of a language line or sign language interpreter services, then make sure that happens.

At the end of the day, our systems should be inclusive.

Inclusive systems will afford women access to opportunities in nontraditional fields. Inclusive systems mean we won’t skip over persons with disabilities, or persons who are limited English proficient, because we don’t know what to do with them, or because it takes a little extra time to get a sign language interpreter or hook-up to the language line.

Inclusive systems mean we’ll encourage employers focus first and foremost on an applicant’s qualifications, push the use of screening tools like criminal background checks and e-Verify, for example, as far back in the process as possible. And, we’ll stress the importance of employers giving an applicant the opportunity to explain, challenge, or clear-up any adverse results that surface through the use of these screening tools.

In the delivery of inclusive workforce development activities and programs, the elements of communication, access, integration, and individualized treatment are present.

From unemployment insurance to on-the-job training to resume writing assistance to job referrals to referrals for an apprenticeship program to counseling and many others, the key is to ensure all members of our population know about the programs, and have access to the programs. Make sure we are serving folks in as integrated a setting as possible, not placing folks off to the side because we don’t know what to do with them. And, we give folks that individualized treatment to ensure their success.

At the end of the day, if a customer meets the essential eligibility requirements for a workforce development program or activity, then the customer must be allowed to enroll, apply, and participate.

Thank you for your time, and I wish you every success in the important work you do.

About Seena Foster

Seena Foster, award-winning civil rights author and Principal of the discrimination consulting firm, Title VI Consulting, LLP in Alexandria, Virginia, provides expertise and guidance in the areas of compliance and civil rights investigations to state and local governments, colleges and universities, private companies, and non-profit organizations. To that end, she offers one-hour on-demand webcasts, full-day and half-day in-person training sessions, and mediation services addressing a variety of types of discrimination such as racial discrimination, sex discrimination, disability discrimination, age discrimination, and religious discrimination. The federal law on discrimination is complex and affects our workplaces as well as the delivery of our federally funded programs and activities. Her book, Civil Rights Investigations under the Workforce Investment Act and Other Title VI Related Laws: From Intake to Final Determination, has been described as an “eye-opening” reading experience and a “stand-alone” training resource. Ms. Foster’s resources and materials are designed to support the work of civil rights and discrimination professionals in the public and private sectors.

In 2003, Ms. Foster served as a Senior Policy Analyst to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Civil Rights Center (CRC). In that capacity, she led a team of equal opportunity specialists to conduct disability-based technical assistance reviews of One-Stop centers, and she assisted the CRC’s leadership in preparing for limited English proficiency-based compliance reviews. Ms. Foster also analyzed and weighed witness statements and documents to prepare numerous final determinations for signature by the CRC Director, which resolved discrimination complaints under a variety of federal civil rights laws such as Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, the Age Discrimination Act, the Rehabilitation Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and Section 188 of the Workforce Investment Act.

In 2006, Ms. Foster received the Secretary of Labor’s Equal Employment Opportunity Award in recognition of “exceptional efforts to ensure that individuals with disabilities have full access to employment and related services and benefits at the Nation’s One-Stop Career Centers.” And, at the request of the CRC, Ms. Foster served as a popular workshop speaker at national equal opportunity forums co-sponsored by the CRC and the National Association of State Workforce Agencies. Her presentations covered topics such as the WIA Section 188 disability checklist, conducting discrimination complaint investigations and writing final determinations, and conducting investigations of allegations involving harassment and hostile environment.

Title VI Consulting, LLP is an affiliate of the National Association of State Workforce Agencies (NASWA). Ms. Foster is a graduate of the George Washington University Law School. You may contact her through www.titleviconsulting.com.

Office of Disability Employment Policy Issues an Article Titled, “The Workforce Recruitment Program: Cultivating Talent for Tomorrow”

Sunday, December 22nd, 2013

With the books about to close on 2013, many business owners are starting to plan for the year ahead. For some, this may include projecting what level of staffing support may be needed throughout the year.

Many businesses, especially small businesses, find that internships are an effective strategy for filling anticipated short-term or seasonal staffing needs. What’s more, they offer a way to evaluate potential future permanent employees, especially those who may be new to the workforce.

Throughout the year, the Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP) can help employers interested in hiring qualified interns. Through it, employers gain access to a database of almost 1,400 pre-screened and highly motivated college students and recent graduates with disabilities, including veterans with disabilities, seeking temporary or permanent employment in a variety of fields. All participants have been selected for the program based on an extensive application process.

Just one example is Frankie Walls, a WRP participant hired as a Safety Analyst intern by charter airline Miami Air International in 2012. Through this opportunity, Frankie, a highly motivated MBA graduate, gained the opportunity to learn about all aspects of the company’s operations and its industry in depth. In exchange, Miami Air gained a skilled team member. During his internship, Frankie put his business training to work to successfully facilitate Miami Air’s transition to a new Content Management System.

Use of the WRP is free for all employers and facilitated through the Employer Assistance and Resource Network (EARN), a service of the National Employer Technical Assistance Center funded by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy. To learn more, visit the WRP webpage or call EARN at 1-855-AskEARN (1-855-275-3276) (Voice/TTY).

The U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Special Counsel Announces Outreach Materials Available in Multiple Languages

Sunday, December 22nd, 2013

OSC is pleased to announce that its outreach materials are now available in additional languages. OSC has published translations of its “E-Verify Know Your Rights,” “Know Your Rights” and “Name and Social Security Number (SSN) ‘No-Match’ Information for Employees” flyers in Arabic, Eastern Punjabi, Haitian Creole, Hindi, Korean, Russian, Simplified Chinese, Spanish, Tagalog, Traditional Chinese, Urdu, Vietnamese, and Western Punjabi. OSC has also updated its Refugee/Asylee flyers for both employers and workers. OSC has posted translations of the worker Refugee/Asylee Flyer in Amharic, Arabic, Armenian, Burmese, Farsi, French, Kayah, Nepali, Russian, Sgaw Karen, Simplified Chinese, Somali, Spanish, and Tigrinya. These translations are available on OSC’s website: http://www.justice.gov/crt/about/osc/htm/worker.php.

The OSC prosecutes immigration-related unfair labor practices.

Office of Disability Employment Policy Newsletter (December 20, 2013)

Sunday, December 22nd, 2013

For more information on any of these articles, go to www.dol.gov/odep.

Stepping Up to the Plate — Assistant Secretary Martinez’s Blog on Sports and Employment

Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy Kathy Martinez posted a blog on the relationship between extracurricular activities — including sports — and employment for people with disabilities. Citing statistics from Special Olympics and Disabled Sports USA, and examples of successful Major League Baseball players with disabilities, she reflected on the power of sports to change societal attitudes and impact individual lives.

OPM Issues Report on 2012 Employment of People with Disabilities in the Federal Executive Branch

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has issued the 2012 Employment of People with Disabilities in the Federal Executive Branch report. “The report has some very exciting news,” said OPM Director Katherine Archuleta. “At no point in the past 32 years have people with disabilities been hired at a higher percentage than in FY 2012. People with targeted disabilities are also being hired at a higher percentage now than at any time in the past 17 years. This success has led to more people with disabilities in Federal service both in real terms and by percentage than at any time in the past 32 years.”

Moving Toward Compliance: OFCCP Training Webinars on Section 503 and VEVRAA

The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) has announced its schedule for a series of webinars to educate federal contractors and subcontractors on the requirements of the new regulations for the Vietnam Era Veterans Readjustment Assistance Act (VEVRAA) and Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act. The webinar sessions will be held from 2:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. EST. The webinars support federal contractor compliance with the new Section 503 and VEVRAA, and will focus on data collection, affirmative action program development, and outreach and recruitment requirements under the new regulations.

Individualized Learning Plan “Kick Start Your ILP” Toolkit Released

A new toolkit aimed at high school students and called “Kick Start Your ILP” has been released by the Office of Disability Employment Policy. An individualized learning plan (ILP) is both a document and a process that students, including students with disabilities, use to define and explore their career goals and post-secondary plans throughout high school in order to shape their decisions about courses and activities. “Kick Start Your ILP” includes an explanation of ILPs, a year by year checklist of steps to follow, and tips to pull it all together.

Helping Youth Develop the “Skills to Pay the Bills”

In a post published this week on Disability.blog, the official blog of Disability.gov, ODEP policy advisor Maria Town discussed the important role early work experiences play in helping individuals develop the “soft” skills necessary for workplace success. She also shared information about ODEP’s “Skills to Pay the Bills” curriculum and video series, which can be used by educators and youth development professionals to help teach workforce readiness to youth, including youth with disabilities.

Mayberry Meets the ADA — Confidentiality and Coworkers

In a blog post addressing the issue of confidentiality in the workplace related to the ADA, Linda Carter Batiste, J.D., Principal Consultant with the Job Accommodation Network, provided insight into ways to handle situations involving coworkers’ questions about accommodations that an employee is receiving. “The workplace can be like a small town — everyone seems to know everyone else’s business,” she noted. “But there are things that employees may wish to keep confidential and, in some cases, employers have a legal duty to comply with those wishes.” The blog appeared on Disability.blog, the official blog of Disability.gov.

Justice Department and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Reach $98 Million Settlement to Resolve Allegations of Auto Lending Discrimination by Ally–Settlement Is Department’s Third Largest Fair Lending Agreement Ever and Largest Ever Auto Lending Agreement

Sunday, December 22nd, 2013

The following press release from the Justice Department was issued on December 20, 2013:

The Department of Justice and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) today announced the federal government’s largest auto loan discrimination settlement in history to resolve allegations that Detroit-based Ally Financial Inc. and Ally Bank have engaged in an ongoing nationwide pattern or practice of discrimination against African-American, Hispanic and Asian/Pacific Islander borrowers in their auto lending since April 1, 2011. The agreement is the first joint fair lending enforcement action by the department and CFPB. With this agreement, eight of the top 10 largest fair lending settlements in the department’s history have been under Attorney General Eric Holder’s leadership.

The settlement provides $80 million in compensation for victims of past discrimination by one of the nation’s largest auto lenders and requires Ally to pay $18 million to the CFPB’s Civil Penalty Fund. Ally also must refund discriminatory overcharges to borrowers for the next three years unless it significantly reduces disparities in unjustified interest rate markups. This system will create a strong financial incentive to eliminate discriminatory overcharges.

“With this largest-ever settlement in an auto loan discrimination case, we are taking a firm stand against discrimination in a critical lending market,” said Attorney General Eric Holder. “By requiring Ally to provide refunds to those who are overcharged because of their race or national origin, this agreement will ensure relief for Americans who are victimized. It will enable the Justice Department and the CFPB to work closely with Ally and others to prevent discriminatory practices in the future. And it will reinforce our determination to respond aggressively to discrimination in America’s lending markets – wherever it is found.”

The settlement resolves claims by the department and the CFPB that Ally discriminated by charging approximately 235,000 African-American, Hispanic and Asian/Pacific Islander borrowers higher interest rates than non-Hispanic white borrowers. The agencies claim that Ally charged borrowers higher interest rates because of their race or national origin, and not because of the borrowers’ creditworthiness or other objective criteria related to borrower risk. The average victim paid between $200 and $300 extra during the term of the loan. The Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) prohibits such discrimination in all forms of lending, including auto lending. Ally’s settlement with the DOJ, which is subject to court approval, was filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan in conjunction with the DOJ’s complaint. Ally resolved the CFPB’s claims by entering into a public administrative settlement.

“Discrimination is a serious issue across every consumer credit market,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “We are returning $80 million to hard-working consumers who paid more for their cars or trucks based on their race or national origin. We look forward to working closely with the Justice Department and Ally to make sure this serious issue will be addressed appropriately in the years ahead as well.”

Rather than taking applications directly from consumers, Ally makes most of its loans through over 12,000 car dealers nationwide who help their customers pay for their new or used car by submitting their loan application to Ally. Ally’s business practice, like most other major auto lenders, allows car dealers discretion to vary a loan’s interest rate from the price Ally initially sets based on the borrower’s objective credit-related factors. Dealers receive greater payments from Ally on loans that include a higher interest rate markup. The coordinated investigations by the department and the CFPB that preceded today’s settlement determined this system of subjective and unguided pricing discretion directly results in Ally’s qualified African-American, Hispanic and Asian/Pacific Islander borrowers paying more than qualified non-Hispanic white borrowers.

The agencies claim that Ally fails to adequately monitor its interest rate markups for discrimination or require dealers to document their markup decisions. Ally’s first effort to monitor for discrimination in interest rate markups began only earlier this year after it learned of the CFPB’s preliminary findings of discrimination, and resulted in only two dealers being sanctioned and subjected to nothing more than voluntary training.

“This settlement provides relief to those who were harmed by this discrimination,” said U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan Barbara McQuade. “Lenders must consider an individual borrower’s credit worthiness, based on income, savings, credit history and other objective factors when determining the terms of a loan. This settlement will ensure that in the future, borrowers will be able to obtain loans from Ally based on their own credit history free from discrimination based on race or national origin.”

Today’s settlement represents the first resolution of the department’s joint effort with the CFPB to address discriminatory auto lending practices. The 2010 Dodd-Frank Act gave both the DOJ and the CFPB authority to take action against large banks like Ally for violating the ECOA. Although the department has filed previously filed lawsuits alleging violations of ECOA involving car loans, today is the first ECOA lawsuit against an auto lender that operates nationwide.

In addition to the $98 million in payments for its past conduct and requirement to refund future discriminatory charges, the settlement requires Ally to improve its monitoring and compliance systems. The settlement allows Ally to experiment with different approaches toward lessening discrimination and requires it to regularly report to the department and the CFPB on the results of its efforts as well as discuss potential ways to improve results. The department commends Ally for working cooperatively to reach an appropriate resolution of this case. The department looks forward to Ally’s commitment, as part of the settlement, to work with the Civil Rights Division and the CFPB to find improved ways to fairly charge all consumers while also fairly compensating auto dealers for the services they provide.

The department’s enforcement of fair lending laws is conducted by the Fair Lending Unit of the Housing and Civil Enforcement Section in the Civil Rights Division. Since the Fair Lending Unit was established in February 2010, it has filed or resolved 30 lending matters under the Fair Housing Act, ECOA and the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. The settlements in these matters provide for a minimum of $775 million in monetary relief for impacted communities and more than 535,000 individual borrowers. The Attorney General’s annual reports to Congress subject to ECOA highlight the department’s accomplishments in fair lending and are available at www.justice.gov/crt/publications.

The settlement provides for an independent administrator to locate victims and distribute payments of compensation at no cost to borrowers whom the department and the CFPB identify as victims of Ally’s discrimination. The department and the CFPB will make a public announcement and post information on their websites once more details about the compensation process become available. Borrowers who are eligible for compensation from the settlement will be contacted by the administrator, and do not need to contact the department or the CFPB at this time. Individuals who have auto loan questions or would like to submit a complaint can contact the CFPB at (855) 411-2372.

The Civil Rights Division, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan and the CFPB are members of the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. President Obama established the interagency Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. The task force includes representatives from a broad range of federal agencies, regulatory authorities, inspectors general and state and local law enforcement who, working together, bring a powerful array of criminal and civil enforcement resources. The task force is working to improve efforts across the federal executive branch, and with state and local partners, to investigate and prosecute significant financial crimes, ensure just and effective punishment for those who perpetrate financial crimes, combat discrimination in the lending and financial markets and recover proceeds for victims of financial crimes. For more information on the task force, visit www.StopFraud.gov.

OFCCP Offers Additional FAQs on the Implementation of the VEVRAA and Section 503 Final Rules

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

OFCCP posted a third round of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) answering questions from contractors and the general public about provisions in the recently published Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act (VEVRAA) and Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 503) Final Rules. These FAQs address implementation issues, such as the schedule for contractors to come into compliance with the affirmative action requirements of Subpart C of the new regulations. These latest FAQs, published on the OFCCP Web site and marked with a “NEW” banner, are part of a series of FAQs, guidance materials, and resources that OFCCP is providing to contractors and the public between now and the March 24, 2014, effective date of the new rules.

The VEVRAA FAQs

The VEVRAA FAQs are available at http://www.dol.gov/ofccp/regs/compliance/vevraa.htm. This set of FAQs provides, in part, the following:

On August 27, 2013, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs announced a Final Rule that makes changes to the regulations implementing the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act, as amended (VEVRAA) at 41 CFR Part 60-300. VEVRAA prohibits federal contractors and subcontractors from discriminating in employment against protected veterans, and requires these employers to take affirmative action to recruit, hire, promote, and retain these veterans. The Final Rule strengthens the affirmative action provisions of the regulations to aid contractors in their efforts to recruit and hire protected veterans and improve job opportunities for protected veterans.

The Final Rule was published in the Federal Register on September 24, 2013, and becomes effective on March 24, 2014. However, current contractors with a written affirmative action program (AAP) already in place on the effective date have additional time to come into compliance with the AAP requirements. The compliance structure seeks to provide contractors the opportunity to maintain their current AAP cycle. Highlights of the Final Rule:

Rescission of 41 CFR Part 60-250: The Final Rule rescinds the outdated 41 CFR Part 60-250 in its entirety. However, veterans that were formerly protected only under Part 60-250 will still be protected from discrimination under the revised 41 CFR Part 60-300.
Hiring benchmarks The Final Rule requires that contractors establish annual hiring benchmarks for protected veterans. Contractors must use one of two methods to establish their benchmarks. Contractors may choose to establish a benchmark equal to the national percentage of veterans in the civilian labor force, which will be published and updated annually by OFCCP. Alternatively, contractors may establish their own benchmarks using certain data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and Veterans’ Employment and Training Service/Employment and Training Administration (VETS/ETA) that will be also be published by OFCCP, as well other factors that reflect the contractor’s unique hiring circumstances. The data will be posted in the Benchmark Database (coming soon).
Data collection: The Final Rule requires that contractors document and update annually several quantitative comparisons for the number of veterans who apply for jobs and the number of veterans they hire. Having this data will assist contractors in measuring the effectiveness of their outreach and recruitment efforts. The data must be maintained for three years to be used to spot trends.
Invitation to Self-Identify: The Final Rule requires that contractors invite applicants to self-identify as protected veterans at both the pre-offer and post-offer phases of the application process. The Final Rule includes sample invitations to self-identify that contractors may use.
Incorporation of the EO Clause: The Final Rule requires that specific language be used when incorporating the equal opportunity clause into a subcontract by reference. The mandated language, though brief, will alert subcontractors to their responsibilities as Federal contractors.
Job Listings: The Final Rule clarifies that when listing their job openings, contractors must provide that information in a manner and format permitted by the appropriate State or local job service, so that it can access and use the information to make the job listings available to job seekers.
Records Access: The Final Rule clarifies that contractors must allow OFCCP to review documents related to a compliance check or focused review, either on-site or off-site, at OFCCP’s option. In addition, the Final Rule requires contractors, upon request, to inform OFCCP of all formats in which it maintains its records and provide them to OFCCP in whichever of those formats OFCCP requests.

The Section 503 FAQs
The Section 503 FAQs are available at http://www.dol.gov/ofccp/regs/compliance/section503.htm. This set of FAQs provides, in part, the following:

On August 27, 2013, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs announced a Final Rule that makes changes to the regulations implementing Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended (Section 503) at 41 CFR Part 60-741. Section 503 prohibits federal contractors and subcontractors from discriminating in employment against individuals with disabilities (IWDs), and requires these employers to take affirmative action to recruit, hire, promote, and retain these individuals. The Final Rule strengthens the affirmative action provisions of the regulations to aid contractors in their efforts to recruit and hire IWDs, and improve job opportunities for individuals with disabilities. The Final Rule also makes changes to the nondiscrimination provisions of the regulations to bring them into compliance with the ADA Amendments Act of 2008.

The Final Rule was published in the Federal Register on September 24, 2013, and becomes effective on March 24, 2014. However, current contractors with a written affirmative action program (AAP) already in place on the effective date have additional time to come into compliance with the AAP requirements. The compliance structure seeks to provide contractors the opportunity to maintain their current AAP cycle. Highlights of the Final Rule:

Utilization goal: The Final Rule establishes a nationwide 7% utilization goal for qualified IWDs. Contractors will apply the goal to each of their job groups, or to their entire workforce if the contractor has 100 or fewer employees. Contractors must conduct an annual utilization analysis and assessment of problem areas, and establish specific action-oriented programs to address any identified problems.
Data collection: The Final Rule requires that contractors document and update annually several quantitative comparisons for the number of IWDs who apply for jobs and the number of IWDs they hire. Having this data will assist contractors in measuring the effectiveness of their outreach and recruitment efforts. The data must be maintained for three years to be used to spot trends.
Invitation to Self-Identify: The Final Rule requires that contractors invite applicants to self-identify as IWDs at both the pre-offer and post-offer phases of the application process, using language prescribed by OFCCP. The Final Rule also requires that contractors invite their employees to self-identify as IWDs every five years, using the prescribed language. This language will be posted on the OFCCP website (coming soon).
Incorporation of the EO Clause: The Final Rule requires that specific language be used when incorporating the equal opportunity clause into a subcontract by reference. The mandated language, though brief, will alert subcontractors to their responsibilities as Federal contractors.
Records Access: The Final Rule clarifies that contractors must allow OFCCP to review documents related to a compliance check or focused review, either on-site or off-site, at OFCCP’s option. In addition, the Final Rule requires contractors, upon request, to inform OFCCP of all formats in which it maintains its records and provide them to OFCCP in whichever of those formats OFCCP requests.
ADAAA: The Final Rule implements changes necessitated by the passage of the ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA) of 2008 by revising the definition of “disability” and certain nondiscrimination provisions of the implementing regulations.

Workforce Development Funding Available Through the Environmental Protection Agency

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

The Environmental Protection Agency has announced the availability of $2,400,000 and solicits proposals from eligible entities, including nonprofit organizations, to deliver environmental workforce development and job training programs that recruit, train, and place local, unemployed and under-employed residents with the skills needed to secure full-time employment in the environmental field.

Note that local Workforce Investment Boards are eligible to apply. Under the criterion “Community Partnership Building” applicants are required to describe the plan for involving the affected community (e.g., local community groups, Workforce Investment Boards, and academic institutions located in or near the affected community) in the proposed job training program.

For more information: http://www.epa.gov/oswer/docs/grants/epa-oswer-oblr-14-01.pdf.

EEOC Publishes Two Informal Discussion Letters; Preparing the Way to Accept Discrimination Complaints Based on Criminal Background

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

The first letter dated November 20, 2013

Dear____:

This is in response to your October 25, 2013 letter to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC or Commission), attention Jacqueline Berrien (Chair). In this letter, you state that you expect to be released in several months from incarceration, after serving a total of 6 1/2 years. You request information about apprenticeship programs and employment training for ex-offenders.

The Commission enforces, among other laws, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (Title VII). Title VII prohibits employment discrimination § including hiring discrimination – based on race, color, sex, religion, or national origin. Excluding people from employment due to criminal records may raise issues under Title VII, especially if it disproportionately harms people of a particular race or national origin. If that occurs, the employer must show that its policy is necessary in light of:

the nature and gravity of the offense or offenses for which the applicant was convicted;
the time that has passed since the conviction and/or completion of the sentence; and
the nature of the job held or sought.

If an employer says that you may not be hired because of your criminal record, the EEOC’s position is that you should have an opportunity to provide more facts before the employer makes a final decision. Information about your prior, successful employment or participation in job training programs may demonstrate your knowledge, skills, and abilities. Similarly, information about your social support in the community or from personal references may demonstrate that you will have the support necessary to be a reliable worker. If there are errors in your criminal record, you should definitely inform the employer. You will know about any errors if you contact law enforcement agencies and review a copy of your criminal record before applying for jobs.

For your information, we have attached the following EEOC documents:

EEOC Enforcement Guidance No: N-915.002, “Consideration of Arrest and Conviction Records in Employment Decisions Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” April 25, 2012. http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/guidance/arrest_conviction.cfm
EEOC Fact Sheet, 2012, What You Should Know About the EEOC and Arrest and Conviction Records

You also requested materials about employment opportunities after your release. We have attached the following:

Employment Information Handbook, U.S. Bureau of Prisons, 2011
New York/National Hire Network, 2013
Helpful New York Agencies, 2013

After your release, if you apply for employment and believe that you have been discriminated against, you may file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC. You may call 1-800-669-4000 to locate the EEOC field office nearest to you. The EEOC’s website at www.eeoc.gov also has information.

We hope that this is helpful to you. Please note that this letter does not constitute an official opinion or interpretation by the EEOC within the meaning of §713(b) of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-12(b).

Sincerely,

Carol R. Miaskoff
Acting Associate Legal Counsel

The second letter dated October 24, 2013

Dear____:

This is in response to your September 10, 2013 letter to Jacqueline A. Berrien, Chair of the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). In your letter, you state that you are an incarcerated veteran who anticipates significant difficulty finding employment and housing after your January 2014 release. You contacted Ms. Berrien because the EEOC issued guidance last year about employment discrimination and job screening due to a criminal record.

The Commission enforces, among other laws, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (Title VII). Title VII prohibits employment discrimination – including hiring discrimination – based on race, color, sex, religion, or national origin. Excluding people from employment due to criminal records may raise issues under Title VII, especially if it disproportionately harms people of a particular race or national origin. If that occurs, the employer must show that its policy is necessary in light of:

the nature and gravity of the offense or offenses for which the applicant was convicted;
the time that has passed since the conviction and/or completion of the sentence; and
the nature of the job held or sought.

If an employer says that you may not be hired because of your criminal record, the EEOC’s position is that you should have an opportunity to provide more facts before the employer makes a final decision. For example, information about prior, successful employment or participation in job training programs may demonstrate your knowledge, skills, and abilities, or suggest references. Information about social support in the community or from the Veterans Administration may demonstrate that you will have the support necessary to be a reliable worker. Last, but not least, if there are errors in your criminal record, you should inform the employer. You will know about any errors if you contact law enforcement agencies and review your record before applying for jobs.

For your information, we have attached the following EEOC documents:

EEOC Enforcement Guidance No: N-915.002, “Consideration of Arrest and Conviction Records in Employment Decisions Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” April 25, 2012. http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/guidance/arrest_conviction.cfm
EEOC Fact Sheet, 2012, What You Should Know About the EEOC and Arrest and Conviction Records

You also requested materials about finding employment, and we have attached the following:

Guidebook for Incarcerated Veterans in North Carolina, 2012
Employment Information Handbook, U.S. Bureau of Prisons, 2011
North Carolina/National Hire Network, 2013

Finally, the Veterans Administration (VA) has a Veterans Crisis Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 (Press 1) and “Help for Homeless Veterans” at 1-877-424-3838. You also may want to contact two individuals at the Durham VA Medical Center:

[Name]: Housing Coordinator
Durham VA Medical Center
508 Fulton Street
Durham, North Carolina 27705
Telephone: (919) 286-0411 (Ext. 6045 or Ext. 5761)

[Name]: Crisis Coordinator
Durham VA Medical Center
508 Fulton Street
Durham, North Carolina 27705
Telephone: (919) 899-6259 (ext. 1026 or Ext. 1025)
(919) 286-0411 (Ext. 5642)

After your release, if you apply for employment and believe that you have been discriminated against, you may file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC. You may call 1-800-669-4000 to locate the EEOC field office nearest to you. The EEOC’s website at www.eeoc.gov also has information.

We hope that this is helpful to you. Please note that this letter does not constitute an opinion or interpretation of the Commission within the meaning of § 713(b) of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-12(b).

Sincerely,

Carol R. Miaskoff
Assistant Legal Counsel

“Principles for Reforming Workforce Development and Human Capital Policies” by Elizabeth Jacobs, a fellow in Governance Studies at Brookings (December 2013)

Monday, December 16th, 2013

Below is the “Executive Summary” and “Conclusion” of Ms. Jacobs’ research paper. For the full text of the publication, go to http://www.brookings.edu/research/papers/2013/12/04-reforming-workforce-development-us-human-capital-policies.

Executive Summary

Human capital development strategies that embrace a life-long approach to learning are critical to the economic success of a nation. Yet, despite historic levels of long-term unemployment and concern about the gap between the skills demanded by employers and the skills profile of the available supply of workers, the United States has an under-developed and confused vision when it comes to workforce development. This paper provides an overview of status quo federal job training policy, and offers a review of the historical evolution of the policy field as a way of understanding how the contemporary landscape developed. It then offers a set of principles for future federal involvement in workforce development policy, in order to provide a framework for a muscular government role that moves America toward a human capital strategy well-suited to a globally competitive future.

Conclusion

The rapidly evolving global marketplace for labor has made the need for a national human capital development strategy all the more critical. Yet the United States continues to operate in a policy atmosphere characterized by multiple contradictions and inefficiencies, particularly in the field of workforce development beyond the traditional K-12 education system. On the one hand, multiple programs with competing definitions of “successful outcomes” populate the policy space, suggesting a bloated system in need of streamlining for greater efficacy. On the other hand, virtually no program has received the funding necessary to meet the demand for training it seeks to address, and existing institutions have neither the authority nor the
financial capacity to serve the critical role of coordinating across the myriad stakeholders involved in the workforce development policy space.

The history of government involvement with workforce development policy in the United States offers little optimism for those interested in seeing an American system that mirrors successful government-business-labor partnerships such as the oft-cited example of Germany. Federal labor market policy in the United States has gradually narrowed in scope over the course of the last half century, rather than broadening to meet the rising challenges
faced by an increasingly open and competitive global economic climate. Active labor market policies, including workforce development efforts, are rarely integrated into discussions of the management of the national economy as a whole, and generally focus on supply-side approaches rather than efforts to shape both labor supply and labor demand. Job training policies are historically linked to “remedial” social policy efforts aimed at providing opportunity to disenfranchised, low-income Americans, and their policy legacy is intertwined with that of the racialized War on Poverty. And, as noted above, the policy landscape that has evolved over the course of the last half-century is highly fragmented, spread across multiple agencies, with multiple funding streams – none of which is sufficient to meet programs’ stated goals. As it currently stands, the policy field is essentially designed for failure.

If the United States is to move forward to a next generation policy that begins to speak more directly to a strategic vision for talent development, then more clarity is needed on the broad goals for federal involvement. By providing a set of principles for guiding how and why the federal government ought to be involved in the business of workforce development, this paper offers guidance to policy makers with a stake in creating and sustaining a dynamic American labor market that is not only economically competitive on the global stage, but also provides economic security and opportunities for upward mobility to American workers. To review, the federal government ought to address these six basic principles in rethinking workforce development policy:

1. Government involvement in workforce development policy is necessary to correct for basic market failures. While the private sector has an important role to play, government is a necessary partner.
2. The federal government ought to coordinate across multiple institutional stakeholders in the workforce development policy arena.
3. The federal government must protect against the tyranny of the majority by targeting the disadvantaged, in the context of policy universalism.
4. The federal government must generate useful data on “what works.”
5. The federal government should serve as an honest broker for stakeholders in the workforce development system, making data easily accessible and allowing employers, workers, and others to put that data to practical use in order to make the most efficient and effective choices regarding training decisions.
6. The federal government should encourage the aggressive replication of best practices in the field.

Congress faces a historic opportunity to reshape the federal role in workforce development, and in turn to begin the process of forging a strategic vision for human capital development in the United States. Both the House and Senate have made significant progress toward reauthorizing the main legislative vehicle for workforce development policy, the 1998 Workforce Investment Act. Yet a great deal of work remains to move forward with a final bill that encompasses the principles outlined above.

Given the demand for training programs and the need for policy reform, policymakers would do well to make the effort to capitalize on the work that has already been done, and to find common ground to push a reauthorized Workforce Investment Act over the finish line before lawmakers are forced to start all over again when the 113th Congress adjourns. A busy legislative calendar, the history of inaction, the wide gap between the priorities of the existing House and Senate bill, and polarization not only between the parties but also amongst Republicans all mean that lawmakers should expect that this process will be neither easy nor particularly quick – and the clock is ticking for the American economy.