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Justice Department Settles Second Pregnancy Discrimination Lawsuit Against the Davie, Florida, Fire Department (February 2015)

Saturday, February 28th, 2015

The Justice Department today announced that it has reached a consent decree with the town of Davie, Florida, to resolve allegations that the Davie Fire Department discriminated against firefighter/paramedic Lori Davis because of her pregnancy and retaliated against firefighter/paramedic Monica Santana because she complained about gender discrimination. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin and religion.

According to the Justice Department, the consent decree resolves allegations of disparate treatment based on pregnancy that resulted from light duty policies implemented by the Davie Fire Department. In 2012, the Department of Justice challenged those discriminatory light duty policies in a related pattern or a practice Title VII case resulting in the filing of a complaint and consent decree to resolve the case. The consent decree entered by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida required that the fire department abandon its existing discriminatory light duty policies and adopt new, non-discriminatory policies. This new complaint is the result of individual charges of discrimination referred to the Justice Department by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

As alleged by the Justice Department in this complaint, Davis worked for the Davie Fire Department under its prior policies and was adversely affected by those policies which were implemented in violation of Title VII. Under Title VII, discrimination based on sex includes discrimination due to pregnancy, and requires that women affected by pregnancy be treated the same as other employees who are similar in their ability or inability to work. Under federal law, an employer may not retaliate against employees because they complain about discrimination based on sex.

As alleged in the complaint, Davis’s doctor wanted Davis on light duty during her pregnancy. The fire department’s policy, however, would not allow her light duty during her first trimester. Davis continued to work and eventually was required to fight a fire while pregnant. She suffered a miscarriage after doing so. The complaint also alleges that Santana complained about other policies and practices at the fire department that she reasonably believed discriminated against female firefighters. After she complained about the discriminatory treatment, the fire department responded to her complaints by taking adverse actions against her designed to discourage similar complaints.

The consent decree, filed simultaneously with the complaint in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida must still be approved by the federal court. Under the terms of the agreement, the fire department must review and adopt appropriate anti-retaliation policies to protect its employees from further violations of Title VII and conduct training of its personnel to ensure that they properly handle future complaints under Title VII. The fire department must also pay monetary awards to compensate Davis, Santana, and two other similarly-situated, pregnant firefighters. The total monetary awards to all four women will exceed $400,000.

“Every day, expectant mothers after consulting with their doctors make difficult decisions about how and, more importantly, when to restrict their work duties due to pregnancy,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta of the Civil Rights Division. “The Civil Rights Division is firmly committed to vigorous enforcement of Title VII’s prohibitions against pregnancy discrimination and retaliation so that women can make decisions regarding their pregnancies and try to remedy discriminatory treatment without fear of unwarranted repercussions in the work place after doing so.”

“Firefighters are dedicated public servants who put their lives at risk every day to protect the citizens of our community,” said U.S. Attorney Wilfredo A. Ferrer of the Southern District of Florida. “We are committed to enforcing the federal laws that protect expectant mothers against discrimination so that they will not be forced to choose between their job and their decision to have a family.”

The continued enforcement of Title VII has been a priority of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. Additional information about the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department is available on its website at www.usdoj.gov/crt/.

TRAINING AND EMPLOYMENT GUIDANCE LETTER No. 19-14: Vision for the Workforce System and Initial Implementation of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014 (February 2015)

Saturday, February 28th, 2015

1. Purpose. This Training Employment Guidance Letter (TEGL) lays out the vision for a revitalized transformed workforce system as a result of implementation of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). Further, it encourages workforce system leaders and partners to take action now to support successful implementation to fully realize the vision of WIOA. Finally, it provides an overview of upcoming guidance and technical
assistance to support effective implementation of WIOA.

2. References.

• WIOA, Public Law (Pub. L.) 113-128, enacted July 22, 2014.
• Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (WIA), Pub. L. 105-220, et seq.
• TEGL No. 15-14, Implementation of the New Uniform Guidance Regulations, dated December 19, 2014.
• TEGL No. 12-14, Allowable Uses and Funding Limits of WIA Program Year 2014 Funds for Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Transitional Activities.
• Training and Employment Notice (TEN) No. 6-14, Information for Stakeholder Engagement for Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Implementation.
• TEN No. 5-14, WIOA Announcement and Initial Informational Resources.
• WIOA implementation dates, at www.doleta.gov/wioa/pdf/WIOA-Key-ImplementationDates.pdf.
• TEGL No. 3-14, Implementing a Job-Driven Workforce System.
• 2 CFR, Part 2900, Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards.

3. Vision for WIOA and the Workforce System. WIOA, which supersedes the Workforce Investment Act of 1998, presents an extraordinary opportunity to improve job and career options for our nation’s workers and jobseekers through an integrated, job-driven public workforce system that links diverse talent to businesses. It supports the development of strong, vibrant regional economies where businesses thrive and people want to live and work. This revitalized workforce system will be characterized by three critical hallmarks of excellence:

The needs of business and workers drive workforce solutions;
One-Stop Centers (or American Job Centers) provide excellent customer service to jobseekers and employers and focus on continuous improvement; and
The workforce system supports strong regional economies and plays an active role in community and workforce development.

Across the system, continuous improvement is supported through evaluation, accountability, identification of best practices, and data driven decision making.

a. The Needs of Businesses and Workers Drive Workforce Solutions: Businesses inform and guide the workforce system and access skilled talent as they shape regional workforce investments and build a pipeline of skilled workers. This engagement includes leadership in the workforce system and active participation in the development and provision of education and training, work-based learning, career pathways, and industry sector partnerships. Jobseekers and workers, including those individuals with barriers to employment, such as individuals with disabilities, as defined by WIOA, have the
information and guidance to make informed decisions about training and careers, as well as access to the education, training and support services they need to compete in current and future labor markets.

b. One-Stop Centers (American Job Centers or AJCs) Provide Excellent Customer Service to Jobseekers, Workers and Employers and Focus on Continuous Improvement: One-Stop Centers and partners provide jobseekers, including individuals with barriers to employment, such as individuals with disabilities, with the skills and credentials necessary to secure and advance in employment with family-sustaining wages. Additionally, AJCs enable employers to easily identify and hire skilled workers and access other supports, including education and training for their current workforce. Further, rigorous evaluations support continuous improvement of AJCs by identifying which strategies work better for different populations; states, local areas, and training providers remain accountable for performance; high-quality, integrated data informs policy maker, employer and jobseeker decision making; and training providers are accountable for performance using the data and evidence.

c. The Workforce System Supports Strong Regional Economies: Meeting workforce needs is critical to economic growth. State and local workforce development boards—in partnership with workforce, economic development, education, and social service organizations at the state, regional and local levels—align education and training investments to regional civic and economic growth strategies, ensuring that all jobseekers and businesses can access pathways to prosperity.

4. Implementing WIOA: Realizing the Vision. State and local workforce system leaders should take immediate action to achieve the vision of modernizing the workforce system and ensuring it operates as a comprehensive, integrated and streamlined system that expands opportunities for all workers and businesses. Key operational and governing principles:

a. States align programs and ensure integrated services through a unified strategic plan and shared governance. Every state collaborates across the core programs (Adult, Dislocated Worker and Youth, Wagner-Peyser, Adult Education and Vocational Rehabilitation) to create a single unified and integrated strategic state plan. States govern the core programs as one system, assessing strategic needs and aligning them with service strategies to ensure the workforce system meets employment and skill needs of all workers and employers. States also collaborate with One-Stop partner programs and other partners at the state and local levels to produce Combined WIOA plans. States use the certification process and competition to help achieve this vision and ensure continuous improvement.

b. Workforce boards focus on strategy. As strategic leaders, state and local workforce boards, in partnership with governors and chief elected officials, facilitate public/private partnerships; support sector strategies and career pathways that advance opportunities for all workers and jobseekers, including low-skilled adults, youth, and individuals with disabilities; foster innovation; and ensure streamlined operations and service delivery excellence.

c. States and local areas align workforce programs with regional economic development strategies. Local boards, program leaders, and elected officials share a common vision and design and govern the system regionally; create unified regional and local plans integrating education, training, support services, and other workforce services across the core programs; align workforce policies and services with regional economies; and support sector strategies tailored to their needs.

d. The One-Stop Center network and partner programs are organized to provide high-quality services to individuals and employers. State and local boards, One-Stop Center operators and partners must increase coordination of programs and resources to support a comprehensive system that seamlessly provides integrated services that are accessible to all jobseekers, workers, and businesses.

e. States and local areas promote accountability and transparency, and data drives decisions and informs customer choice. State and local leaders ensure investments in employment, education and training programs are evidence-based and data-driven, and programs are accountable to participants and taxpayers. This includes evaluating approaches and aligning performance accountability and data systems to support program management, facilitate common case management systems, and inform policy. State and local areas provide robust, validated data to inform strategy, operations, and evaluations. Information technology systems are designed to reduce burden and present integrated information to support services, inform customer choice and guide strategy development. Technological strategies for improving the quality of services are adopted, including advances in digital literacy skills and models for accelerating skill acquisition and credential attainment of jobseekers.

5. Taking Action Now. Most WIOA provisions related to DOL-administered programs take effect in Program Year (PY) 2015, which starts July 1, 2015. ETA strongly advises states and local areas to begin planning and implementing WIOA transition activities now. As discussed further in Section VI, ETA will issue regulations and additional guidance; in addition, the legislation and the technical assistance tools currently available support initial implementation and transitional activities. While some provisions do not go into effect until PY 2016 (July 1, 2016), such as the unified or combined state plans and the performance accountability system, states should be preparing now for the ultimate implementation of
these provisions.

Beyond complying with the requirements of the new law, WIOA offers an opportunity to continue to modernize the workforce system and create a customer-centered system: where the needs of business and workers drive workforce solutions; where One-Stop Career Centers provide excellent customer service to all jobseekers and businesses; and where the workforce system supports strong regional economies. To realize this vision, workforce system leaders are asked to step back and re-envision how they conduct business and restructure activities accordingly.

Below are recommended actions workforce system leaders and partners are strongly encouraged to take now to move toward full implementation of the law. These should be considered in any state and local transition discussions to ensure states and local areas are well positioned on July 1, 2015 to implement WIOA. The list is not exhaustive, and each state and local area should fully assess its own situation and requirements and determine the
activities it will need to undertake to support a full and effective transition.

Identify and allocate funding for transitional activities. TEGL 12-14, Allowable Uses and Funding Limits of Workforce Investment Act Program Year (PY) 2014 funds for Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Transitional Activities explains that states and locals may use up to two percent of the WIA’s Fiscal Year 2014 Youth, Adult, and Dislocated Worker formula funds to transition to WIOA. The TEGL identifies nine priority areas for transition activities more fully described in this document and also details how to incur and report transition activities costs. Please consult TEGL 12-14 in tandem with this guidance. Also, please note the importance of maintaining a balance between exercising the transitional funding authority and continuing to serve current system customers effectively.

Build new, and strengthen existing, partnerships. WIOA requires states and local areas to enhance coordination and partnerships with local entities and supportive service agencies for strengthened service delivery, including through unified state plans and combined state plans. These plans should include statutorily specified additional partners in the planning process; establish a set of system performance measures that apply to all core programs; strengthen linkages between a myriad of complementary programs within the One-Stop Center system; require co-location of employment services in One-Stop Centers; add One-Stop Center partners, such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and the Jobs for Veterans State Grants (JVSG) programs; enhance the role of apprenticeship; clarify partner programs support for system infrastructure costs and other common costs; and ask the system to work regionally and across local workforce development areas.

Additionally, successful implementation of many of the approaches called for within WIOA, such as career pathways and sector strategies, require robust relationships across programs and with businesses, economic development, education and training institutions, including community colleges and career and technical education local entities and supportive service agencies. As workforce system leaders step back and explore their approach for moving toward the WIOA vision, robust partnerships will be required to successfully enable our dual customers—jobseekers and employers—to drive solutions, to ensure these customers receive excellent services, and to effectively support economic regions.

Engage with core programs and other partners to begin strategic planning. Local and state leaders should engage in strategic planning and find new ways to align core and other key programs, such as Registered Apprenticeship, Job Corps, JVSG, TANF, Perkins Career and Technical Education programs, Unemployment Insurance, and required partners under the Act. It is vital to understand the new unified and combined
state plan requirements, and assess whether the right partners are at the table, and are participating fully as equal partners in the design and coordination of the programs and services within the workforce system. Strategic planning should include concrete goals as well as a vision of success: how the workforce system should ideally function in each state to best meet WIOA goals. We encourage local and state leaders to include
state economic development staff and alignment of workforce and economic development goals.

Reassess One-Stop delivery system. With your WIOA partners, reassess the One-Stop delivery system and what is needed to achieve seamless service delivery models that place the customer at the center of how programs are designed and delivered. Consider operations, such as “bricks and mortar” and information technology infrastructures in light of new requirements: core and mandatory One-Stop Center partners; co-location
of Wagner-Peyser employment services; procedures and policies to transition to selecting One-Stop Center operators through competitive procurement; a Memoranda of Understanding to address One-Stop Center infrastructure funding; physical and programmatic accessibility requirements; and the vision of WIOA and state established goals. These actions will better position states and local workforce development areas to better tailor the state’s plan for infrastructure funding and certification of One-Stop Centers.

Develop plans to ensure workforce investment boards become WIOA compliant. State and local boards must meet the new membership requirements and be able to carry out new functions by July 1, 2015. Chief elected officers should review the new requirements to reconstitute and certify boards. While a business majority is required by WIOA and must be maintained for the transition period of July 22, 2014 through June 30, 2015, suggested strategies may be employed to bring board membership into compliance by July 1, 2015, such as establishing standing committees and transition board members. When establishing standing committees, we strongly encourage focusing on serving youth, low skilled adults, Indians and Native Americans, individuals with disabilities and other relevant priorities for the local area. Also, local areas can reach out to the state to signal interest in initial designation or re-designation that may result in a new area.

Develop transition plans. Transition to WIOA and realizing its vision is complex, and will require substantial activities leading up to July 1, 2015 and after. We encourage states and local areas to develop transition plans that will allow for transition preparation and tracking of transition and implementation progress and use these to guide implementation of new WIOA requirements. Also, consider customer impacts, such as how current WIA participants are impacted in WIOA transition. ETA is developing several technical assistance tools to assist states and locals in this area.

Prepare for fiscal and program changes for transition across legislations. There are several fiscal and program changes that have been recently issued that require attention as part of transition planning: the new Office of Management and Budget Uniform Guidance was published in the Federal Register on December 19, 2014 and ETA issued associated guidance in TEGL 15-14, also dated December 19, 2014. Financial staff and other applicable staff must become familiar with the requirements of this guidance and the impact on the state system and the transition from WIA to WIOA. States should also prepare for 100 percent transfer between adult and dislocated worker formula funds.

Assess state laws. It is important to review state legislation and identify areas that may conflict with WIOA to develop plans and strategies that resolve these conflicts. When state and federal laws conflict, federal laws take precedence.

Review Eligible Training Provider processes. Review Eligible Training Provider List processes and assess how they need to be updated to reflect new eligibility criteria. Examples include: adding new procedures for the inclusion of Registered Apprenticeship programs; taking into account the need to ensure access to training throughout the state, including rural areas; and ensuring the ability of providers to provide training to individuals who are employed and individuals with barriers to employment. States must also take steps to ensure that eligible training providers are in a position to provide required outcomes information for individuals served by their programs by July 1, 2015. ETA will be providing additional technical assistance to support such implementation.

Ensure new or existing youth service contract operators support the 75 percent out of-school youth and the 20 percent work experience expenditure rate requirements. States and locals that are not currently meeting the 75 percent out-of-school youth requirement must begin to prepare for this transition. ETA will provide guidance and technical assistance to aid with this transition, including further guidance on use of funds, productive approaches for serving out-of-school youth, as well as alternative resources for serving in-school youth. In the meantime, states, local areas and federal partners should develop plans to address this requirement. States will receive their first WIOA allotment for the youth programs in April 2015 and will begin full implementation of WIOA for the Youth Program at that time.

6. Timeframe of Anticipated Regulations, Guidance & Technical Assistance. ETA is committed to continuing its collaborative work with its Federal partners and all workforce system stakeholders and grantees to support WIOA implementation. Generally, the WIOA provisions take effect on July 1, 2015, with the exception of the provisions in title IV, which became effective on enactment, and targeted exceptions. Two Notices of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRMs) will be issued in early 2015: a joint NPRM with the Department of Education which will cover joint activities, including state planning, performance, and provisions covering the One-Stop system; and a second which will cover the remaining ETA-administered provisions in WIOA. (Concurrently, three additional NPRMs will be published by the Department of Education, one implementing Adult Education and Literacy and two implementing WIOA amendments to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.) These NPRMs will provide notice of the current thinking by ETA and the Department of Education and an opportunity for public comment. These NPRMs will be published in the Federal Register and posted on www.regulations.gov.

Instructions on how to comment on the NPRMs are included in the preambles of each proposed rule. ETA and the Department of Education will analyze these public comments and develop and issue Final Regulations by early 2016. As many provisions of the law go into effect July 1, 2015, ETA will issue Operating Instructions in spring 2015 to support such implementation. ETA also intends to issue operating and programmatic guidance and continue to disseminate technical assistance beginning in early 2015 and throughout implementation. We will continue to gather stakeholder input for guidance development and technical assistance needs and convene additional regional events and conferences to provide more in-depth learning and networking opportunities.

The DOL’s official Website for additional information on WIOA is www.doleta.gov/wioa.

In addition, ETA has created a new WIOA collection page at https://wioa.workforce3one.org which currently houses existing technical assistance resources that are relevant for WIOA implementation, and will house more technical assistance resources and guidance as they are developed. These pages will be updated as new information is available.

7. Inquiries. Questions regarding this guidance should be directed to the appropriate ETA regional office or through the ETA email address established for this purpose: DOL.WIOA@dol.gov. ETA monitors this account daily, and may respond to inquiries directly or through general communications such as official guidance, webinars, and public Q&A documents. You can also contact your regional office for any inquiries or feedback.

Office of Disability Employment Policy Newsletter (February 27, 2015)

Saturday, February 28th, 2015

For more information, go to www.dol.gov/odep.

Protecting Retirement Savings from Conflicts of Interest

Conflicted fees related to retirement savings advice is the subject of the White House blog What You Need to Know about Retirement “Conflicts of Interest,” in 3 Big Sentences. The blog explains how some investment advisors accept hidden and back-door payments that may lead them to direct their clients to investments that are not in the clients’ financial best interests. In order to make the system more accountable, President Obama has directed the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to start a rulemaking process that would require all retirement advisers to abide by a best interest standard. In the months to come, DOL will initiate this public-feedback process so all Americans will be able to weigh-in on the best approach to modernizing the rules on retirement advice and set new standards.

ODEP Releases Employer Engagement Strategy Final Report

The Employer Engagement Strategy final report provides an overview of the Office of Disability Employment Policy’s Employer Engagement Strategy (EES) Marketing Framework created in collaboration with the Wharton School of Pennsylvania. The report details strategies and potential tactics employers can implement to improve corporate culture and facilitate the growth and expansion of their disability and inclusion activities, including the recruitment, hiring, promotion and retention of persons with disabilities.

Help Shape Smarter Regulations at the U.S. Department of Labor

The U.S. Department of Labor continuously reviews its existing regulations to update rules that may be out of date, ineffective, insufficient or excessively burdensome. DOL is now asking the public for ideas about which rules should be modified, streamlined, expanded or even repealed, and has launched an interactive Shaping Smarter Regulations website where suggestions can be made from now until Wednesday, March 18. All ideas are welcome and appreciated.

Campaign for Disability Employment’s Who I Am Visits the Daytona 500

The Campaign for Disability Employment’s Who I Am public service announcement aired last weekend on the big screen at the Daytona 500. This annual event, which kicks off the NASCAR season, attracted more than 600,000 people in 2015. The PSA aired 78 times during the weekend. Who I Am features cast members who, rather than be defined by disability, are the sum of their many life roles, which includes working in jobs they love.

Building a Workforce That Reflects the People We Serve – OPM Blog

In her blog Building a Workforce That Reflects the People We Serve, Director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Katherine Archuleta discusses the positive strides that have been made in the hiring of people with disabilities in the federal government, and talks about the use of the Schedule A hiring authority for people with disabilities. Archuleta also introduces OPM’s new Recruitment, Engagement, Diversity and Inclusion (REDI) Roadmap, which reflects a commitment to ensuring that all segments of society are represented and feel included at every level of America’s workforce. On Thursday, March 5 Archuleta will host a live event to kick off the REDI Roadmap. To participate, use hashtag #AmericasWorkforce and join the conversation on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

ETA Issues a Training and Employment Guidance Letter on WIOA Implementation

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration (ETA) has issued a Training and Employment Guidance Letter (TEGL) titled Vision for the Workforce System and Initial Implementation of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014. The TEGL lays out the vision for a revitalized transformed workforce system as a result of implementation of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). Further, it encourages workforce system leaders and partners to take action now to support successful implementation to fully realize the vision of WIOA. Finally, it provides an overview of upcoming guidance and technical assistance to support effective implementation of WIOA.

FCC Seeks Nominations for Chairman’s Awards for Advancement in Accessibility

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is accepting nominations for the Chairman’s Awards for Advancement in Accessibility (Chairman’s AAA) for products, services, technologies or practices introduced to the public between January 1, 2014 and December 31, 2014. The Chairman’s AAA is an FCC project designed to recognize the efforts of individuals, organizations, academics, companies and government agencies to make communication tools easier to use and more accessible to people with disabilities, and to encourage technological innovation and accessibility in communications-related areas. Nominations are due March 5, 2015.

Implementing the Next Generation of Curb Cuts: An Employer Roadmap (February 23, 2015)

Monday, February 23rd, 2015

For more information, go to www.dol.gov/odep.

Perhaps you’ve noticed that today, “curb cuts” are commonplace — those gradual dips in sidewalks that serve as ramps to the street below. Originally created to assist wheelchair users and others with disabilities, countless others benefit from them, including employers. Just ask the business traveler with a rolling suitcase or the delivery person with a handcart full of office supplies.

In large part, we have the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to thank for the proliferation of curb cuts and other accessibility innovations. However, according to a federal cross-agency effort called “Curb Cuts to the Middle Class,” now is the time for the next generation of curb cuts — advances that fulfill the true promise of the ADA and create new pathways toward equal employment opportunity for people with disabilities.

In that spirit, the White House convened a range of employers and disability inclusion leaders at a summit earlier this month. The agenda included panels on best practices for disability inclusion across the employment life cycle. And as part of this, event organizers unveiled a new Resource Guide for Employers on recruiting, hiring, retaining and promoting people with disabilities. Targeted at businesses of all sizes, the publication addresses leading practices in four key areas: 1) hiring (including strategies for recruiting youth and veterans with disabilities); 2) retention and promotion; 3) providing reasonable accommodations; and 4) understanding responsibilities under the ADA, Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act, and other related regulations.

Employers can use this tool as an easy reference guide for implementing a new breed of curb cuts — inclusive policies and practices that empower more Americans with disabilities to contribute their skills and talents in the workplace, and more businesses to benefit from them.

Accessible Transportation Technology Research Initiative (ATTRI) Webinar: Understanding the Travel Needs of People with Disabilities (February 20, 2015)

Saturday, February 21st, 2015

Start Date: 3/3/2015

End Date: 3/3/2015

Event Description:

Time: 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Details: ATTRI is a USDOT initiative to develop transformative technology solutions to enable travelers with disabilities to reliably, safely, and independently plan and execute their travel. This event seeks input on the challenges faced by travelers with disabilities to better understand their user needs.

Registration: To participate in this webinar, please register online at: https://tti.adobeconnect.com/attri-pwd/event/registration.html.

More Information: Access the ATTRI Webinar Invitation (PDF).

Office of Disability Employment Policy Newsletter (February 20, 2015)

Saturday, February 21st, 2015

For more information, go to www.dol.gov/odep.

Assistant Secretary Martinez Says Farewell

After nearly six years of service, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy Kathy Martinez is moving on from the Department of Labor. Her last day is February 20. “Secretary Perez often quips that he’d like the Department of Labor to be renamed the “Department of Opportunity.” It certainly has lived up to this nickname for me,” said Martinez. “Going forward, I wish my dedicated colleagues here the best in ensuring it continues to do so for all workers, including those of us with disabilities.”

Workforce Recruitment Program Changed Her Life

In her February 19 blog titled My Life Changed Forever after One Interview, Tiffany Jolliff, program specialist at the Office of Disability Employment Policy, reflects on her experiences with the Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP) when she was a college student. To her own surprise, Tiffany accepted a WRP internship in Washington, DC. “I took a huge leap during that October interview and never ever looked back,” says Jolliff. “Today, my outlook on life is great, and I have WRP to thank.”

CDE’s Who I Am PSA Reaches 17,000 Airings

The Campaign for Disability Employment’s (CDE) new public service announcement, Who I Am, has been aired nationwide about 17,000 times by nearly 160 stations since its release in November 2014, and has been viewed over 13,000 times online. Who I Am shows that the cast members, rather than be defined by disability, are the sum of their many life roles, which includes working in jobs they love. If you would like to see the PSA in your area, send the letter linked below to your local stations.

U.S. Access Board Proposes Updated ICT Accessibility Requirements

The U.S. Access Board has released for public comment a proposed rule updating accessibility requirements for information and communication technology (ICT) in the federal sector covered by Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. The rule also would jointly update guidelines for telecommunications equipment subject to Section 255 of the Communications Act. Public comments on the rule, as well as on a preliminary assessment of its estimated costs and benefits, are due in 90 days. The Board also will hold public hearings on the rule in San Diego on March 5 and in Washington, DC on March 11. In addition, the Board will conduct a public webinar to review the proposal on March 31.

Accommodating Eating Disorders in the Workplace

National Eating Disorders Awareness Week is February 22-28, and the 2015 theme, “I Had No Idea,” focuses on the importance of early intervention and recognizing the diverse experiences of people personally affected by disordered eating. The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) has released a publication in its Accommodation and Compliance Series titled Employees with Eating Disorders that looks at eating disorders in the workplace and potential accommodations for employees affected by them.

U.S. Justice Department and North Carolina Attorney General Reach Settlement to Resolve Allegations of Auto Lending Discrimination by “Buy Here, Pay Here” Used-Car Dealerships (February 10, 2015)

Friday, February 13th, 2015

The U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of North Carolina and the North Carolina Department of Justice today announced a settlement of the federal government’s first-ever discrimination lawsuit involving “buy here, pay here” auto lending. The settlement, which is subject to court approval, was filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina.

The settlement resolves a lawsuit, filed in January 2014 by the Department of Justice and the State of North Carolina, alleging that Auto Fare Inc. and Southeastern Auto Corp., two “buy here, pay here” used-car dealerships in Charlotte, North Carolina, and their owner – violated the federal Equal Credit Opportunity Act by engaging in a pattern or practice of “reverse redlining” by intentionally targeting African-American customers for unfair and predatory credit practices in the financing of used car purchases. The state of North Carolina also alleged that the dealerships’ actions violated the state’s Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act. The settlement came after the court denied the dealerships’ motion to dismiss the case and agreed that reverse redlining by an auto lender is illegal discrimination.

“It is not only illegal, but also fundamentally wrong, to target borrowers of color for predatory loans and exploit their need for a car to do essential tasks such as getting to work,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta of the Civil Rights Division. “Combating discrimination in all segments of the auto lending market is, and will remain, a top priority for the Civil Rights Division. I am pleased that these dealerships have agreed to reform problematic lending and servicing practices and adopt policies that promote responsible lending. I hope that other buy here, pay here dealerships will evaluate their practices in light of this settlement.”

The settlement requires the dealerships to implement a number of specific practices to ensure that the terms of their loans and repossession practices are no longer unfair and predatory. The required changes include: limiting projected monthly payments to no more than 25% of a borrower’s income; requiring interest rates to be at least five percentage points below the state’s rate cap; mandating a lower interest rate for borrowers who have specified evidence of lower credit risk; requiring competitive sales prices; prohibiting hidden fees on top of the required down payment; prohibiting repossessions until at least two consecutive missed payments; providing down payment refunds to borrowers who quickly go into default; requiring strict compliance with provisions of state repossession law enacted to protected consumers; providing borrowers improved disclosures at the time of sale (including disclosing the presence of any GPS, or automatic shut off, device); allowing borrowers to obtain an independent inspection of the car before completing the purchase; and providing borrowers improved notices before repossession.

“All consumers deserve to be treated fairly when they buy a car,” said North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper. “We hope this case sends a strong message that car dealers cannot use race when targeting buyers with overpriced cars and oppressive loans.”

The settlement also requires defendants to establish a $225,000 settlement fund to compensate victims of their past discriminatory and predatory lending.

“Predatory lending practices that lock consumers into contracts they cannot afford are illegal and can spell financial disaster for borrowers of lower income or challenged credit history,” said U.S. Attorney Anne M. Tompkins of the Western District of North Carolina. “Today’s settlement ensures that all customers of Auto Fare Inc. and Southeastern Auto Corp. will have equal access to credit regardless of their race.”

The lawsuit alleged that the two dealerships’ sales prices, down payments, and interest rates were disproportionately high compared to other subprime used-car dealers. Because the dealerships did not meaningfully assess the customers’ creditworthiness or ability to repay, their rates of default and repossession were disproportionately high. Additionally, the dealerships engaged in repossessions when customers were not in default.

The U.S. Department of Justice’s enforcement of fair lending laws is conducted by the Fair Lending Unit of the Housing and Civil Enforcement Section in the Civil Right Division. Since the Fair Lending Unit was established in February 2010, it has filed or resolved 36 lending matters under the Fair Housing Act, Housing Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) and the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. The settlements in these matters provide for over $1.2 billion in monetary relief for impacted communities and individual borrowers. The Attorney General’s annual reports to Congress on ECOA highlight the department’s accomplishments in fair lending and are available at www.justice.gov/crt/publications.

The Civil Rights Division and other agencies involved in this matter are members of the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. President Obama established this 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 to bear 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.

The settlement provides for an independent party to contact victims and distribute payments of compensation at no cost to borrowers whom the United States Department of Justice and the North Carolina Department of Justice identify as victims of defendants’ conduct. Former customers who are eligible for compensation from the settlement will be contacted by mail later this year. Individuals who believe that they may have been victims of illegal conduct by Auto Fare or Southeast Auto and have questions about the settlement may contact the United States Department of Justice and the North Carolina Department of Justice by calling 1-800-896-7743, mailbox 92, or emailing AutoFareLawsuit@usdoj.govEmail links icon.

A copy of the proposed order and other documents related to this lawsuit, as well as additional information about fair lending enforcement by the United States Department of Justice, can be obtained from the United States Department of Justice website at www.justice.gov/fairhousing.

Court Approves Consent Order in Alabama Desegregation Case to Improve Faculty Diversity and Ensure Fair and Equitable Student Discipline (February 13, 2015)

Friday, February 13th, 2015

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama approved a consent order yesterday afternoon filed by the Justice Department, together with private plaintiffs and the Calhoun County, Alabama, School District, finding that the district has met its desegregation obligations in certain areas and providing for additional, comprehensive relief in the areas of faculty and staff hiring and recruitment as well as student discipline and school climate.

In approving the consent order, which amends a longstanding federal school desegregation decree, the district court declares that the 9,200-student school district has eliminated the vestiges of prior state-mandated segregation in the areas of student assignment, extracurricular activities, school facilities and transportation, thereby ending the court’s supervision in those areas. The order requires the district to take additional steps to reach full compliance, including adopting measures to promote racial diversity in its faculty and staff, expanding its use of positive behavioral supports and interventions throughout its schools, and revising its student discipline policies and procedures to ensure they are fair, non-discriminatory and limit the use of exclusionary discipline such as suspensions and expulsions.

“We commend the Calhoun County School District for the progress it has made in complying with its desegregation obligations, and for agreeing to take additional steps to reach our mutual goal of ensuring equal educational opportunities for all students,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “We will continue to work closely with the district to implement this agreement and bring this case to a successful conclusion.”

The district may seek full dismissal of the case upon compliance with the terms of the three-year agreement. The Justice Department will monitor and enforce the district’s compliance with the order.

The enforcement of Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, among other bases, in public schools is a top priority of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. Additional information about the Civil Rights Division is available on its website at www.justice.gov/crt.

A Separation of the Indigent and Wealthy in the Criminal Justice System (February 13, 2015)

Friday, February 13th, 2015

The Department of Justice filed a statement of interest today with the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama in Varden v. City of Clanton. In this class action litigation, the plaintiff alleges that incarcerating individuals solely because of their inability to pay a cash bond violates the U.S. Constitution.

In her complaint, Varden alleges that she was required to pay a cash “bond” in a fixed dollar amount for each misdemeanor charge she faced or else she would remain incarcerated. In its statement of interest, the department aims to assist the court in evaluating the constitutionality of fixed-money bail practices. The statement asserts that, as courts have long recognized, any bail or bond scheme that mandates payment of pre-fixed amounts for different offenses in order to gain pre-trial release, without any regard for indigence, not only violates the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, but also constitutes poor public policy. Instead, courts should make an individualized assessment of each defendant to determine whether the defendant is a threat to public safety or a flight risk. Pretrial detention should be based on an objective evaluation of these factors, not on the defendant’s ability to pay.

“Bail practices that are indifferent to an individual’s ability to pay are incompatible with our Constitution and contrary to our values,” said Attorney General Eric Holder. “By taking action in this case, the Justice Department is sending a clear message: that we will not accept criminal justice procedures that have discriminatory effects. We will not hesitate to fight institutionalized injustice wherever it is found. And we will never waver in our effort to ensure that all Americans – regardless of background or circumstance – receive the equal rights and protections to which they are entitled under the law.”

“The criminal justice system should not work differently for the indigent and the wealthy” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta of the Civil Rights Division. “Bail practices that create a two tiered system of justice by treating the indigent and the wealthy differently undermine fundamental fairness in our nation’s criminal justice system.”

The statement of interest provides the court with a framework to assess the plaintiff’s claim of an unlawful bail scheme. As the department explains in the statement of interest, “Fundamental and long-standing principles of equal protection squarely prohibit bail schemes based solely on the ability to pay. Fixed-sum bail schemes do not meet these mandates. By using a predetermined schedule for bail amounts based solely on the charges a defendant faces, these schemes do not properly account for other important factors, such as the defendant’s potential dangerousness or risk of flight. The federal government recognized as much when it reformed its bail system over fifty years ago.”

Varden v. City of Clanton was filed in January 2015. The plaintiff seeks declaratory, injunctive and compensatory relief. A preliminary injunction hearing will be held on Feb. 24.

For more information, go to www.doj.gov.

Office of Disability Employment Policy Newsletter (February 13, 2015)

Friday, February 13th, 2015

For more information, go to www.dol.gov/odep.

WIOA Advisory Committee Meeting Presentations and Public Testimony Available

The Advisory Committee on Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment for Individuals with Disabilities, a key part of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), held its first meeting January 22-23 in Washington, DC. Several panels of experts discussed various aspects of competitive integrated employment, and organizations and individuals gave public testimony. The panelists’ presentations and the public testimony are now available online. The next WIOA Advisory Committee meeting is tentatively scheduled for March 23-24 in Washington, DC.

Webinar on Creating Resilient Workplaces Now Archived

The webinar titled Creating Resilient Workplaces: Safe Space Leads to Engaged, Productive Workers, presented by the Office of Disability Employment Policy’s Employer TA Center in coordination with the Federal Partners Committee on Women and Trauma, has been archived and is now available for viewing. This webinar features expert speakers from federal and federally funded technical assistance centers who discuss key considerations for implementing safe and productive workplaces. It also highlights how fostering such workplaces — ones where employees feel comfortable disclosing disabilities and health concerns without fear, stigma or worry — allows all employees to receive the productivity tools (also known as reasonable accommodations) and supports they need to optimize their performance and deliver on the job.

PEAT Posts New Accessible Workplace Technology Resources

The Partnership on Employment & Accessible Technology (PEAT) has added several new educational resources to its website PEATworks.org. Features include an interview with leaders of the International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAAP) — a new organization working to define, promote and improve the accessibility profession — as well as an interview with the Federal Communications Commission’s Jamal Mazrui about his professional and personal experiences working to advance accessible technology. Another new feature is a blog post by accessible technology expert Jim Tobias on the value of PEAT’s TechCheck tool, a resource that helps organizations assess their accessible technology efforts and find tools to develop them further. Funded by ODEP, PEAT is a multi-faceted initiative promoting the employment, retention and career advancement of people with disabilities through the development, adoption and promotion of accessible technology.

FCC Announces Disability Advisory Committee Membership

On February 10 the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced the membership of the new Disability Advisory Committee (DAC) and the date of the first meeting. In addition to the Chair, thirty-six members and 3 ex officio government representatives were named to the committee. The DAC will provide advice and recommendations to the Commission on a wide array of disability matters within the Commission’s jurisdiction and facilitate the participation of people with disabilities in proceedings before the Commission. The first meeting of the DAC will be held on March 17 from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM ET, at the FCC’s headquarters, Room TW-C305 (Commission Meeting Room), 445 12th Street, S.W., Washington, DC 20554. The meeting will be open to the public and webcast with open captioning at www.fcc.gov/live. Notice of this meeting will be published in the Federal Register.