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Justice Department Releases Findings of Constitutional Violations in Juvenile Delinquency Matters by St. Louis County Family Court (July 31, 2015)

Friday, July 31st, 2015

Following a comprehensive investigation, the Justice Department today announced its findings regarding the Family Court of the Twenty-First Judicial Circuit of the state of Missouri, commonly known as the St. Louis County Family Court. The Justice Department found that the family court fails to provide constitutionally required due process to children appearing for delinquency proceedings, and that the court’s administration of juvenile justice discriminates against Black children. The investigation was conducted under the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, which gives the department the authority to seek a remedy for a pattern or practice of conduct that violates the constitutional or federal statutory rights of youths in the administration of juvenile justice.

“The findings we issue today are serious and compelling,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Civil Rights Division. “Missouri was at the forefront of juvenile corrections reform when it closed its large juvenile institutions and moved to a smaller, treatment-focused system and we are hopeful that Missouri will rise to this challenge to, once again, be a leader in juvenile justice reform. This investigation is another step toward our goal of ensuring that children in the juvenile justice system receive their constitutionally guaranteed rights to due process and equal protection under the law.”

Since opening this investigation in November 2013, the Civil Rights Division has analyzed data relating to nearly 33,000 juvenile cases, including all delinquency and status offenses resolved in St. Louis County Family Court between 2010 and 2013; and has reviewed over 14,000 pages of documents, including family court records, transcripts, policies, procedures and external reports. In June 2014, Justice Department attorneys and its consultants—a law school clinical professor and experienced juvenile defense attorney and a nationally-recognized expert on measuring juvenile justice disparities through statistical analysis—visited the family court and interviewed a number of court personnel, including all of the judges and commissioners as well as the heads of many of family court programs and services. They also collected information from both the state and local public defender’s offices, private attorneys with experience in the family court and the parents of youth who had been involved in delinquency proceedings with the family court.

The Justice Department found a number of constitutional violations, including:

Failure to ensure youth facing delinquency proceedings have adequate legal representation;
Failure to make adequate determinations that there is probable cause that a child committed the alleged offense;
Failure to provide adequate due process to children facing certification for criminal prosecution in adult criminal court;
Failure to ensure that children’s guilty pleas are entered knowingly and voluntarily;
An organizational structure that is rife with conflicts of interest, is contrary to separation of powers principles and deprives children of adequate due process; and
Disparate treatment of Black children at four key decision points within the juvenile justice system.

The department has opened four cases examining whether juvenile justice systems comply with children’s rights since 2009. In 2012, the department settled its first investigation of this kind, reaching an agreement with the Juvenile Court of Shelby County, Memphis, Tennessee that calls for comprehensive due process, equal protection and facility reforms. On June 19, 2015, the Justice Department announced a partial settlement of its lawsuit alleging violations of children’s due process rights in Lauderdale County, Mississippi. In March 2015, the department announced its investigation of due process and disability discrimination issues in the Dallas County Truancy Court and Juvenile District Courts.

This investigation was conducted by the Special Litigation Section. Additional information about the Civil Rights Division is available on its website at www.justice.gov/crt.

Huntsville, Alabama, Police Officer Convicted of Excessive Use of Force and Obstruction of Justice (July 31, 2015)

Friday, July 31st, 2015

A federal jury in Huntsville, Alabama, convicted Huntsville Police Department Officer Brett Russell, 48, of deprivation of rights under color of law for assaulting and injuring G.H., a detainee, as well as obstruction of justice for filing a false police report regarding this incident.

According to the evidence presented at trial, on Dec. 23, 2011, G.H. was detained in the rear of a police vehicle parked in a hotel parking lot. After initially uttering profanity and kicking a rear window, G.H. sat handcuffed, compliant and nonresisting for approximately 30 minutes. As officers attempted to remove G.H. from the vehicle to place leg shackles on him, Russell yanked G.H. from the vehicle. While G.H. was lying handcuffed on the ground, the defendant repeatedly punched and kneed G.H. Other officers placed leg shackles on G.H. and Russell then transported G.H. to the Madison County, Alabama, Jail. When the jail refused to accept G.H. because of his injuries, Russell transported G.H.to the Huntsville Hospital. Russell subsequently wrote and submitted a false report claiming that G.H. tried to kick and head butt the officers. Further, Russell omitted from the false report any reference to the fact that he had used force on G.H.

Russell faces a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for the civil rights charge and a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years for the obstruction charge. Sentencing has yet to be scheduled, but will occur before U.S. District Court Judge Abdul K. Kallon in the Northern District of Alabama.

“The criminal behavior of this officer undermines the dedicated efforts of the vast majority of officers who serve honorably,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department is committed to holding officers who engage in such criminal acts accountable.”

“Most police officers honor their oaths, day in and day out, to uphold the law and protect the public, but this defendant disgraced his badge and used excessive force against a man in handcuffs,” said U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance of the Northern District of Alabama. “This verdict reflects that abusing the authority of a police badge is a serious crime and it will be punished accordingly. My office remains committed to aggressive civil rights enforcement, and I thank the FBI for its dedication to investigating and compiling evidence in these type of cases. ”

This case is being investigated by the FBI’s Florence Resident Agency. It is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Carroll McCabe of the Civil Rights Division and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Daniel Fortune and Xavier O. Carter Sr. of the Northern District of Alabama.

U.S. Department of Justice: Twenty-Two MS-13 Members Sentenced for Violent Crimes (July 2015)

Friday, July 31st, 2015

Twenty-two members of the international gang Mara Salvatrucha-13 (MS-13) have now been sentenced, many to life or decades in prison, for their roles in violent crimes in the Atlanta area between 2005 and 2010, including murders, attempted murders and armed robberies.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Acting U.S. Attorney John Horn of the Northern District of Georgia made the announcement.

On July 15, 2013, a jury convicted the following defendants:

Miguel Alvarado-Linares, aka Joker, 26, of Norcross, Georgia, was convicted of Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) conspiracy involving murder, two counts of Violent Crime in Aid of Racketeering (VICAR) involving murder, two counts of VICAR involving attempted murder and four firearms offenses. He was sentenced on Oct. 15, 2013, to serve three life sentences followed by 85 years in prison.

Ernesto Escobar, aka Pink Panther, aka Flaco, 32, of Norcross, was convicted of one count of RICO conspiracy involving murder, one count of VICAR involving murder and one firearms offense. He was sentenced on Dec. 20, 2013, to serve two life sentences followed by 10 years in prison.

Dimas Alfaro-Granados, aka Toro, 32, of Duluth, Georgia, was convicted of one count of RICO conspiracy involving murder, two counts of VICAR involving murder and two firearms offenses. He was sentenced on Oct. 30, 2013, to serve three life sentences followed by 35 years in prison.

Jairo Reyna-Ozuna, aka Flaco, 30, of Norcross, was convicted of one count of RICO conspiracy and one firearms offense. He was sentenced on Jan. 31, 2014, to serve 13 years in prison.

According to the evidence introduced at trial, Alvarado-Linares and Alfaro-Granados, along with another gang member, killed Lal Ko in October 2006. Ko was a fellow MS-13 member, but Alvarado-Linares, one of the gang leaders, thought that Ko was cooperating with police and ordered his murder.

The trial evidence showed that in December 2006, when another MS-13 gang member wanted to quit the gang, Alvarado-Linares and Alfaro-Granados ordered him to kill a rival gang member as a condition of leaving MS-13. Following orders, on Christmas Eve 2006, that gang member shot at a vehicle traveling on an interstate highway that he believed contained rival gang members. A 20-year-old passenger in the vehicle was killed.

The evidence at trial also demonstrated that on New Year’s Eve 2006, Alvarado-Linares shot two members of a rival gang.

Finally, the evidence introduced at trial showed that on Aug. 5, 2007, Reyna-Ozuna, who was a gang leader at the time, gave Escobar a .45 caliber semi-automatic handgun and instructed him to shoot a teenager with whom Escobar had an altercation earlier that day.

On Nov. 21, 2013, a jury convicted the following defendants:

William Espinoza, aka Cheberria, aka El Crazy, 33, of Norcross, was convicted of one count of RICO conspiracy involving murder, one count of VICAR involving attempted murder and one firearms offense. He was sentenced on April 15, 2014, to serve 20 years and eight months in prison.

Remberto Argueta, aka Pitufo, 26, of Lilburn, Georgia, was convicted of one count of RICO conspiracy involving murder, one count of VICAR involving murder and one firearms offense. He was sentenced on Oct. 29, 2014, to serve two life sentences followed by five years in prison.

According to the evidence presented at trial, on April 13, 2007, Argueta, along with other gang members, attempted to rob Arpolonio Rios-Jarquin, who the defendants suspected was drug dealer. After discovering that Rios-Jarquin was armed, Argueta and fellow MS-13 members engaged in a shootout with Rios-Jarquin, during which Rios-Jarquin was killed.

The trial evidence showed that, on Oct. 24, 2007, Argueta and several other MS-13 members shot at rival gang members, hitting one in the back and another in the hip and arm.

The evidence also demonstrated that, while at a nightclub in DeKalb County, Georgia, on July 20, 2008, Espinoza and other members of MS-13 engaged in a fight with persons they suspected were members of a rival gang. During the fight, Espinoza shot a man in the stomach.

Just two days later, according to evidence introduced at trial, Espinoza and four other MS-13 members identified a victim to rob for beer money. When the victim resisted, Espinoza shot him through the head.

On Oct. 7, 2014, a jury convicted the following defendant:

Elio Marroquin-Lopez, aka Perico, 29, of Chamblee, Georgia, was convicted of one count of RICO conspiracy. He was sentenced on Oct. 29, 2014, to serve seven years and two months in prison.

According to the evidence introduced at trial, on Dec. 15, 2008, Marroquin-Lopez, who was one of the gang leaders, and two other gang members shot at the owner of an apartment that the defendants were attempting to rob.

The trial evidence also showed that on March 13, 2009, Marroquin-Lopez fought two suspected gang members and shot at one of them.

Finally, the evidence at trial demonstrated that Marroquin-Lopez often distributed baggies of cocaine to fellow MS-13 members at meetings and instructed them to sell the cocaine at clubs.

The following defendants previously pleaded guilty and have been sentenced:

Jose Delgado, aka Fantasma, 28, of Lawrenceville, Georgia, pleaded guilty to RICO conspiracy involving murder and two counts of VICAR involving murder, and was sentenced on July 31, 2015, to serve 12 years in prison.

Alex Ferrufino, aka Whiskey, 35, Tucker, Georgia, pleaded guilty to two counts of VICAR involving attempted murder and one firearms offense, and was sentenced on Sept. 11, 2014, to serve 25 years in prison.

Joseph Ivan Dias, aka Travieso, 27, of Gainesville, Georgia, pleaded guilty to RICO conspiracy and was sentenced on April 1, 2015, to serve 14 years in prison.

Miguel Guevara, aka Blacky, 31, of Fort Walton Beach, Florida, pleaded guilty to RICO conspiracy involving murder and a firearms offense, and was sentenced on Feb. 13, 2015, to serve 30 years in prison.

Kenedis Bonilla, aka Mago, 33, of Tucker, pleaded guilty to RICO conspiracy involving murder and a firearms offense, and was sentenced on June 13, 2015, to serve 15 years in prison.

Salvador Franco, aka Smiley, 30, of Norcross, pleaded guilty to RICO conspiracy and a firearms offense, and was sentenced on Sept.11, 2014, to serve 12 years in prison.
Edwin Menjivar, aka Chilly Willy, aka Vago, 33, of Norcross, pleaded guilty to RICO conspiracy and VICAR involving attempted murder, and was sentenced on Nov. 21, 2014, to serve 11 years in prison.

Omar Cubillos, aka Pancho, 30, of Gainesville, pleaded guilty to RICO conspiracy involving murder and a firearms offense, and was sentenced on June 15, 2015, to serve 20 years in prison.

Carlos Mendoza, aka Catracho, 30, of Atlanta, pleaded guilty to RICO conspiracy involving murder and a firearms offense, and was sentenced on April 30, 2015, to serve 17 years and six months in prison.

Emmanual Hidalgo, aka Scooby, 29, of Chamblee, pleading guilty to RICO conspiracy involving murder and a firearms offense, and was sentenced on Nov. 21, 2014, to serve 25 years in prison.

Christopher Castro Ramirez, aka Demente, 26, of Norcross, pleaded guilty to RICO conspiracy and was sentenced on Nov. 1, 2012, to serve two years and six months in prison.

Enzo Baires, aka Ghost, 25, of Norcross, pleaded guilty to RICO conspiracy involving murder and was sentenced on May 11, 2015, to serve 12 years in prison.

Irvin Mejia-Cruz, aka Lil Triste, aka Triste, 25, of Duluth, pleaded guilty to RICO conspiracy and was sentenced on Feb. 13, 2015, to serve nine years in prison.

Walter Aldana, aka Goofy, 25, of Norcross, pleaded guilty to RICO conspiracy and was sentenced on Feb. 13, 2015, to serve 10 years in prison.
William Pineda, aka Slayer, 32, of Lawrenceville, pleaded guilty to RICO conspiracy and was sentenced on Dec. 11, 2014, to serve seven years in prison.

These cases were investigated by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations and the FBI with assistance from the U.S. Marshals Service, the Gwinnett County, Georgia, Police Department, the DeKalb County Police Department, the Norcross Police Department, the Chamblee Police Department, and the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office.

These cases were prosecuted by Trial Attorney Joseph Wheatley of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Paul R. Jones and Kim S. Dammers of the Northern District of Georgia.

Statement of Jenny R. Yang, Chair U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions U.S. Senate (2015)

Friday, July 31st, 2015

This testimony is being republished in this blog as an important reminder of the direction the EEOC is going in the area of workplace discrimination:

May 19, 2015

Good afternoon Chairman Alexander, Ranking Member Murray, and distinguished Members of the Committee. Thank you for inviting me to testify today on behalf of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“the Commission” or “EEOC”).

I appreciate the opportunity to appear before you to discuss the work and strategic priorities of the agency. It has been a privilege to serve as Chair of the EEOC since September 2014 and as a member of the Commission since May 2013. As you know, the EEOC is a five-member bi-partisan commission responsible for enforcing our nation’s laws against workplace discrimination. As of January, we have had a full complement of commissioners: Commissioners Constance S. Barker, Chai R. Feldblum, Victoria A. Lipnic, and Charlotte A. Burrows. The agency’s General Counsel, P. David Lopez, has authority over the conduct of the agency’s litigation, and I am pleased to be here with him providing testimony today.

I thank the members of this Committee for your support for the agency. Since joining the Commission, and particularly in my role as Chair, I have seen the value of open lines of communication between EEOC and Congress. A steady, two-way flow of information keeps you abreast of the agency’s efforts and objectives, while keeping us aware of matters on the minds of your constituents and ours. Today’s discussion adds to that helpful exchange of information. I look forward to our continued work with this Committee and others in Congress over the course of my tenure.

Over the years, EEOC has made critical progress in advancing equal opportunity for workers, yet we have also faced challenges. The Commission, our General Counsel, and the agency’s more than 2,000 dedicated employees take very seriously our duty to responsibly and efficiently discharge the work Congress has entrusted to us. As such, we are continually developing ways to improve our service to the public. I look forward to highlighting some of those initiatives today.

Historic Milestones

This July marks two historic milestones for EEOC. On July 2, we will celebrate EEOC’s 50th anniversary, and on July 26, we will commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). For our agency, these occasions present a time for reflection and recommitment to expanding opportunity in the American workplace.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) created EEOC to enforce protections against employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, and sex. We opened our doors on July 2, 1965, a year to the day after the Civil Rights Act was signed. It was projected in our first year that EEOC would receive approximately 2,000 charges of discrimination. In reality, EEOC received nearly 9,000 charges.

In the 50 years since, the agency’s responsibilities and workload have expanded exponentially. Today, we receive nearly 10 times as many charges a year as we did in 1965. In addition, Congress has vested EEOC with responsibility to enforce the Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Titles I and V of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), and Title II of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA).

Ensuring Equal Opportunity in the 21st Century Workforce

The nation has made great strides towards equal employment opportunity for all. Never before in our nation’s history has the American workplace been more inclusive than it is today. EEOC has been a critical part of that progress, creating real and meaningful opportunities for people of all backgrounds. Through 53 field offices around the country, we help employees and employers in understanding our civil rights laws. We initiate early and informal resolution of employment disputes and work with employers to improve their policies to prevent discrimination from recurring. We use litigation as a last resort to ensure accountability when violations do occur, and we have done so effectively. EEOC has obtained favorable results in 93 percent of the cases resolved during FY 2014, and over the past five years we have achieved, on average, favorable results in 91 percent of our case resolutions.

Yet, despite significant progress, EEOC’s work is unfinished. Notwithstanding the diligent efforts of many employers and the work of EEOC, across the country we continue to see discrimination — in both overt and subtle forms — based on race, national origin, sex, religion, age, disability, and genetic information. What’s more, individuals who come forward to raise concerns of unequal treatment frequently face retaliation.

Highlighted below are some examples of the ways in which we see discrimination manifest itself today, and the strategies that EEOC is employing to prevent, stop, and remedy discrimination. The ongoing challenge of combating employment discrimination in all its forms is what makes EEOC’s work as critical today as it was in 1965.

Fulfilling the Promise of the ADA for People with Disabilities

As we approach the 25th Anniversary of the ADA, today’s young people with disabilities, sometimes known as – the “ADA generation” – have increased access to education, employment, and full participation in American society. However, even with notable advancements to make our communities more accessible, much remains to be done to fulfill the promise of the ADA in the workplace. Over the past four years, approximately 35 percent of the suits that EEOC filed on the merits included allegations of discrimination under the ADA. In the last fiscal year alone, 30 percent of all charges of discrimination filed with the EEOC alleged disability discrimination. During that period, EEOC staff worked with more than 4,800 employers to reach voluntary resolutions of ADA charges through settlements and conciliation agreements, obtaining more than $95 million for workers with disabilities while helping to establish workplace practices that enable people with disabilities to succeed at work.

EEOC’s litigation on behalf of people with disabilities has involved workers in all segments and sectors of the workforce experiencing discrimination ranging from failure to provide reasonable accommodations and asking prohibited disability-related questions of applicants and employees, to refusing to hire qualified applicants based on stereotypes, to discharging qualified workers on the basis of disability. In one striking example from September 2014, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld a jury’s liability verdict in EEOC v. Hill Country Farms, Inc., d/b/a Henry’s Turkey’s Servs, a lawsuit filed on behalf of 32 workers with intellectual disabilities. EEOC presented evidence that for years the employer subjected the workers to abusive verbal and physical harassment, restricted their freedom of movement, required them to live in sub-standard conditions, and failed to provide adequate medical care when needed. The agency won the largest verdict in its history on behalf of these workers at $240 million, although this was later reduced to conform to statutory caps.

In February 2015, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, in EEOC v. P.A.M. Transp., Inc., entered a judgment against the employer. EEOC alleged that the employer’s medical clearance policy violated the ADA by requiring all drivers to notify the company of any contact with a medical professional, including for a routine physical, and then the company terminated employees based on the overly broad medical inquiries. The judgment required the employer to pay nearly half a million dollars to 12 former truck drivers and a separate judgment entered against the employer required the company to change its medical clearance policy to make medical inquiries of drivers only when they are job-related and consistent with business necessity.

Persistent Race and Ethnicity Discrimination

As we see across the country, discrimination based on race and ethnicity persists in our nation’s workplaces. In FY 2014, race discrimination remained the most frequent ground for discrimination alleged under Title VII, comprising 35 percent of charges filed with the EEOC under all the statutes we enforce. Across the country, the agency has resolved race and national origin discrimination charges alleging barriers to equal opportunity, such as hiring discrimination and harassment on the job. During FY 2014, EEOC staff recovered more than $106 million in administrative resolutions of race and national origin charges — without litigation. In one notable resolution from FY 2013, EEOC reached a conciliation agreement with an employer that stemmed from a systemic investigation launched after 78 charges were filed with the EEOC. The conciliation agreement provided $21.3 million to African American workers whom the EEOC found were subjected to racial discrimination.

When litigation has been necessary, we have succeeded in obtaining compensation for victims as well as vital changes to discriminatory practices at issue. For example, just last month, in EEOC v. Patterson-UTI Drilling Company LLC, EEOC settled claims of race and national origin discrimination affecting more than 1000 employees. EEOC alleged that since at least 2006, the employer engaged in a nationwide pattern or practice of discrimination on its drilling rigs, including by assigning African-Americans, Native Americans, Hispanics or Latinos, Asian-Americans, and biracial individuals to the lowest level jobs, failing to train and promote them, disproportionately disciplining and demoting them, and subjecting them to pervasive racial and ethnic slurs, and engaging in retaliation. The employer agreed to pay $14.5 million, which includes a settlement fund plus benefits obtained in separate conciliation agreements on related charges of discrimination, as well as significant changes to its practices. In September 2014, in EEOC v. McCormick & Schmick, EEOC settled a case in which it alleged that a nationwide seafood restaurant refused to hire any African-Americans into positions in which they would interact with the public, known as “front-of-the-house” positions, at its Baltimore restaurants. The consent decree in the case provides approximately $1.3 million to approximately 200 individuals and requires significant changes in recruitment, hiring, and work assignments to ensure the restaurant’s hiring practices do not discriminate in the future.

Barriers to Equal Employment Opportunity for Women

Women continue to confront multiple barriers in the workplace. Although women now comprise nearly half the workforce, they continue to be overrepresented in low wage jobs. The EEOC has challenged discriminatory hiring practices against women in traditionally male fields such as trucking, mining, construction, and warehouse work. For example, in EEOC and Clouse v. New Prime, Inc., the court ruled that one of the nation’s largest trucking companies engaged in a deliberate pattern or practice of discrimination against female applicants for jobs as drivers by requiring that they be trained only by female trainers. Given the very few female trainers, this practice resulted in female trainees waiting extended periods of time — sometimes as long as 18 months — for a female driver trainer to become available. As a result most female drivers were denied employment.

Many women also experience a persistent pay gap, even when they work in the same jobs and are equally qualified as men. To assist employers in ensuring equal pay for equal work, last year alone, the EEOC conducted educational and outreach events on equal pay issues that reached nearly 40,000 attendees across the country. Still today, when women become pregnant, they continue to face harassment, demotions, decreased hours, forced leave, and even job loss. In fact, approximately 70 percent of the thousands of pregnancy discrimination charges EEOC receives each year allege women were fired as a result of their pregnancy.

National Strategic Priorities and Commission Oversight

As we serve the American public and enforce our civil rights laws, EEOC is committed to operating as effectively and strategically as possible. To that end, in February 2012, the Commission approved a Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years 2012 – 2016, designed to coordinate the EEOC’s programs to create sustainable reductions in discriminatory workplace practices. In December 2012, the Commission adopted a Strategic Enforcement Plan, which established the following six national priorities:

Eliminating Barriers in Recruitment and Hiring;
Protecting Immigrant, Migrant and Other Vulnerable Workers;
Addressing Emerging and Developing Issues;
Enforcing Equal Pay Laws;
Preserving Access to the Legal System;
Preventing Harassment Through Systemic Enforcement and Targeted Outreach.

Across the agency, we are deploying our resources more strategically to achieve broad and sustained compliance with our anti-discrimination laws. We are further integrating all segments of agency operations and emphasizing effectiveness, efficiency and consistency. We are instituting improved channels of communication across the agency for greater coordination and consistency in private, public, and federal sector enforcement.

Throughout EEOC’s history, the agency’s success has hinged on carefully balancing national priorities, coordination, and oversight with local awareness, responsiveness, and discretion. With the goal of increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of its enforcement programs, a unanimous Commission delegated litigation authority to the General Counsel in the 1996 National Enforcement Plan. This action freed the Commission to focus on broad policy issues. In the 2012 Strategic Enforcement Plan, on a bi-partisan basis, the Commission reaffirmed that delegation of authority and established quarterly reports and meetings to continually assess the success of delegated authority.

Currently, the Commission must approve decisions to commence or intervene in litigation in significant cases that: (1) require a major expenditure of resources; (2) address a developing area of law; or (3) raise issues of public controversy. In addition, the Commission must review and approve all recommendations for EEOC to participate as amicus curiae. The 2012 Strategic Enforcement Plan also directs that a minimum of one litigation recommendation from each EEOC District Office must be presented for Commission consideration each fiscal year, including litigation recommendations based on the above criteria.

Identifying Collaborative Solutions to Strengthen America’s Workplaces

For EEOC, this 50th anniversary year offers a vital opportunity to engage all who share the goal of promoting equal employment opportunity in a broader effort to build stronger workplaces that fully utilize the talents and potential of all workers. EEOC is actively partnering with employers and employees alike to identify strategies for widening the doors to equal opportunity for all in the workplace.

We have redoubled our efforts to develop solutions to our most complex problems. With 30 percent of the charges filed in FY 2014 alleging workplace harassment, combating harassment is a high priority. Race is cited most frequently as the basis for harassment allegations followed by disability and gender. In January, the Commission convened a public meeting to hear from experts on preventing and addressing workplace harassment. To develop a comprehensive strategy to address this issue, I asked EEOC Commissioners Victoria A. Lipnic and Chai R. Feldblum to co-chair a Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace. They have invited employers, workers’ advocates, academics, and others experienced with harassment issues and will be holding public meetings to identify underlying problems leading to harassment claims and effective strategies for preventing and remedying workplace harassment.

The agency continues to explore solutions to address and overcome entrenched workplace barriers based on race and ethnicity. Last month, the EEOC convened a Commission meeting in Miami, Florida, entitled “EEOC at 50: Confronting Racial and Ethnic Discrimination in the 21st Century Workplace.” A broad range of national and local stakeholders shared their perspectives on ongoing challenges and promising solutions. Witnesses emphasized that despite significant progress in the past 50 years, discrimination against racial and ethnic minorities remains a too-frequent reality in 21st century America. Other witnesses described today’s new barriers to employment and encouraged the EEOC to address those barriers through creative partnerships with employers.

Next month, the Commission will host a public Commission meeting on retaliation in the workplace. Retaliation remains the most frequently alleged basis of discrimination under all the statutes we enforce, comprising 42.8% of all charges filed with the agency in FY 2014. The Commission meeting will address the root causes of retaliation in the workplace and explore strategies for prevention to ensure that individuals are not chilled from reporting violations of the law. As necessary, the agency will continue to challenge retaliatory practices. The agency did so effectively, just last month, when the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit upheld a jury verdict in EEOC v. New Breed Logistics, finding the employer liable for a supervisor’s sexual harassment of three female employees and retaliation against them by firing them shortly after they complained about the harassment, and retaliation against a male employee who supported the women’s claims. In its ruling, the court provided important clarification on the scope of retaliation protected under Title VII when it found that an employee’s oral complaints to a supervisor to cease harassing conduct constitute protected activity.

In addition, as the nation’s largest employer, the federal government continues to strive to be a model employer. The EEOC strategically partners with other federal agencies to promote workplace policies and practices that remove barriers to equal employment opportunity and foster an inclusive work environment. I am pleased to serve on the Steering Committee for the newly created Government-wide Diversity and Inclusion Council. Along with the Office of Personnel Management, the Department of Labor, the Office of Management and Budget, and the White House, this effort promotes collaboration among federal agencies to develop approaches that achieve model EEO programs and broad inclusion throughout the federal government.

Providing Guidance to Promote Compliance

One of the most crucial tools at the Commission’s disposal is providing guidance to help employers and employees, alike, better understand and comply with our anti-discrimination laws.

Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Wellness Programs

On April 20, 2015, EEOC published in the Federal Register a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that addresses the ADA’s application to employer wellness programs. As part of this process, we coordinated with the federal agencies that have responsibility for enforcing and implementing the provisions of HIPAA and the ACA related to wellness programs, including the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Treasury. The public comment period on the NPRM closes on June 19th, and the Commission looks forward to reviewing these comments as it shapes the final regulation.

The Commission understands the critical need for EEOC guidance concerning employer wellness programs and the interaction of the ADA with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the Affordable Care Act (ACA). We recognize that many employers wish to implement wellness programs in an effort to improve their employees’ health and reduce health care costs. We are also mindful that wellness programs must adhere to the ADA’s requirement that disability-related inquiries (such as questions on a health risk assessment) or medical examinations (such as blood tests for cholesterol levels) that are part of employee health programs must be “voluntary.”

In addition, we anticipate that in the near future, the Commission will also issue amendments to EEOC’s regulations implementing Title II of GINA to address employer wellness programs. Our goal is to propose rules that harmonize ADA and GINA requirements with HIPAA and the ACA, as well as to provide certainty to employers about their obligations.

Guidance on Pregnancy Discrimination

In July 2014, the Commission issued a comprehensive update to the agency’s pregnancy guidance that covers a range of issues, including the Pregnancy Discrimination Act’s (PDA) application to current, past, and potential pregnancy; the application of the PDA to nursing mothers; the prohibition of forced leave policies; and the application of the ADA to pregnancy-related impairments. This was the first update of our pregnancy guidance in over 30 years. The Commission initiated the process of updating the guidance with a Commission meeting in 2012 focused on pregnancy discrimination. Stakeholders at the meeting urged the Commission to update its guidance to reflect developments in the law, including the passage of the ADA Amendments Act in 2008, which expanded protections for those with temporary impairments.

The Supreme Court’s recent decision in Young v. UPS addresses the PDA and recognizes that the ADA, as amended, provides important protections for employees with pregnancy-related conditions. As a result of this decision, many pregnant women who were previously denied accommodations will now be entitled to receive them. The Commission will be updating its guidance on pregnancy accommodation issues in accordance with the Court’s decision.

Guidance on Consideration of Arrest and Conviction Records in Employment Decisions
The EEOC’s Enforcement Guidance on the Consideration of Arrest and Conviction Records in Employment Decisions is another example of guidance that is promoting compliance. The Commission approved this updated guidance by a bipartisan vote to clarify how employers can use background checks as part of their selection process. Consistent with longstanding court decisions, the guidance provides that when conducting criminal background checks, employers should not categorically exclude everyone with a criminal record. Rather, they should target criminal background screens to reflect the nature of the crimes, the time elapsed, and the nature of the job and then allow those who are identified as failing the screen an opportunity to correct errors in the criminal records and submit supplemental information for individualized consideration. A Wall Street Journal article reported that 77.7 million individuals, or nearly one out of every three American adults, have a file in the FBI’s master criminal database. See http://www.wsj.com/articles/decadeslong-arrest-wave-vexes-employers-1418438092 (Dec. 12, 2014). EEOC’s guidance seeks to ensure that individuals have a chance to be considered for employment where they are qualified to do the job.

An increasing number of businesses have explicitly adopted the principles laid out in the guidance. According to a 2014 survey by screening company EmployeeScreenIQ, 88 percent of the nearly 600 respondents said they had adopted the principles contained in EEOC guidance. Finally, many employers and jurisdictions have adopted what are known as “ban-the-box” policies that delay the consideration of criminal records until later in the employment process — a policy the EEOC guidance recommends. Indeed, at least 16 states have approved ban-the-box legislation, including Vermont (2015), Virginia (2015), Georgia (2015), Delaware (2014), Nebraska (2014), Illinois (2014 and 2013), New Jersey (2014), California (2013), Maryland (2013), Minnesota (2013), Rhode Island (2013), Colorado (2012), Connecticut (2010), Massachusetts (2010), New Mexico (2010), and Hawaii (1998).

Efficient and Effective Enforcement To Promote Broad Compliance

The EEOC is ensuring efficient and effective enforcement by using integrated strategies that encourage prompt and voluntary resolution of charges and improve employment policies and practices so that employers can prevent discrimination from occurring. The agency is also investing its resources strategically to address recurring and persistent problems in the workplace in order to remove barriers to opportunity and improve working conditions for a significant number of workers.

Voluntary compliance remains the preferred means of preventing and remedying employment discrimination. Our mediation, settlement and conciliation efforts serve as prime examples of our investment in strategies to resolve workplace disputes early, efficiently, and with lasting impact. In FY 2014, these informal settlement methods secured more than $296 million in benefits for individuals, without resort to litigation. EEOC’s private sector national mediation program serves an integral role in the agency’s work. Mediation is a voluntary process where a neutral mediator assists the employer and employee in reaching an early and confidential resolution of the employment dispute raised in a charge of discrimination. This program has consistently achieved outstanding results for participants. In FY 2014, EEOC’s mediation program successfully helped employers and employees voluntarily resolve 7,846 (77 percent) of the 10,221 mediations it conducted. Through these mediations, EEOC obtained $144.6 million in relief for individuals. Moreover, participants nearly uniformly view the mediation program favorably, with over 96 percent reporting confidence in the program this past year.

EEOC’s conciliation efforts are another vital means to promote voluntary compliance. Conciliation efforts occur after the agency has completed its investigation of a charge and notified the parties of its determination of reasonable cause to believe that discrimination has occurred. Conciliation is an informal method of resolving a charge of discrimination where the agency endeavors to eliminate unlawful employment practices by working with an employer to reach a mutually satisfactory resolution before any litigation is filed. EEOC’s record demonstrates its commitment to, and success in, resolving charges through conciliation. Over the past three years, EEOC has worked with employers to conciliate and voluntarily resolve a greater percentage of cases than at any time in recent history – with successful conciliations rising from 27 percent in FY 2010 to 38 percent in FY 2014. The success rate for conciliation of systemic charges is even higher – at 47%, which is particularly significant as these charges are more complex and have the potential to improve practices for a significant number of workers.

The Supreme Court’s decision in Mach Mining LLC v. EEOC___U.S. ___, 2015 WL 1913911 (2015), provides needed clarity across the courts concerning standards for judicial review of EEOC’s conciliation efforts. The standard set forth by the Supreme Court will effectuate the purpose of conciliation, by encouraging all parties to focus on informally resolving the charge. The Commission takes its obligation to conciliate seriously, and we will ensure that additional guidance and training for EEOC staff further advances the agency’s effectiveness in our conciliation efforts. The Court’s decision will promote a more efficient use of agency, employer, and judicial resources by ensuring the focus of the case is on resolving the merits of the claims of discrimination.

EEOC has a strong incentive to successfully resolve charges through conciliation. Successful conciliations ensure that unlawful employment practices are remedied more quickly, thus conserving agency resources. These conciliation agreements can also help to improve workplace policies and prevent discrimination from occurring in the first instance. Indeed, employers agreed to include changes to workplace policies in nearly 850 conciliation agreements over the last three years.

Through its administrative and legal resolutions, the agency has increased the percentage of agreements with targeted equitable relief to improve workplace practices from 64 percent in FY 2013 to 73 percent in FY 2014. This is especially significant, as it surpassed the goals set out in EEOC’s Strategic Plan for targeted equitable relief for FY 2014 (63-67 percent), FY 2015 (64-68 percent), and FY 2016 (65-70 percent). Indeed, EEOC has worked with employers to secure policy changes in 1,724 agreements through all administrative resolutions, including mediations, conciliations, and settlements, and has obtained nonmonetary benefits for nearly 92,000 workers in cases over the past three years. Examples of these changes include adoption of anti-harassment policies, objective promotion policies, and reasonable accommodation policies — policies that will help prevent discrimination from recurring.

Systemic investigations and cases-those where the practice or policy has a broad effect on an industry, occupation, or geographic area– are another critical strategy for leveraging the EEOC’s resources to most effectively promote compliance and remedy discrimination. In 2005, EEOC established a Systemic Task Force under the leadership of former Commissioner Leslie E. Silverman. Former Chair Cari M. Dominguez charged the Task Force with responsibility for examining the Commission’s systemic program and recommending new strategies for combating systemic discrimination. In 2006, a unanimous Commission adopted the recommendations of the Systemic Task Force and established a nationwide systemic program as a top priority of the Commission.

In 2012, the Commission reaffirmed the importance of systemic enforcement in its Strategic Plan and Strategic Enforcement Plan. The Commission has worked to create a structure and strategy to coordinate systemic cases across the country, provide increased headquarters support for the systemic work of the field offices, enhance systemic skills, and provide technology to support the development of systemic cases. We have hired social scientists and labor economists who are located in EEOC’s field offices to directly support systemic investigations and analyze workforce data and employment practices. Through these actions and others, EEOC is strengthening its systemic infrastructure to enhance the agency’s ability to identify and remedy persistent patterns of discrimination across the workforce.

As a result of these efforts, at the end of FY 2014, 57 out of 228, or 25 percent of the cases on EEOC’s litigation docket were systemic. This is the largest proportion of systemic lawsuits on EEOC’s docket since tracking began in FY 2006. In FY 2014, the agency continued to achieve a high level of results in its systemic investigations and secured $13 million in monetary relief. Also, in 2014, EEOC’s success rate for conciliation of systemic charges of discrimination was 47 percent. Examples of systemic matters successfully resolved in FY 2014 prior to litigation include:

The EEOC reached a negotiated settlement agreement with a company to pay $650,000 to African American and Hispanic individuals the company is alleged to have failed to hire because of their race or national origin. The company also agreed to hire additional workers, bringing the combined value of this relief to over $4.6 million.

After finding reasonable cause to believe that a company had a practice of not hiring women for driving positions because of their sex, the EEOC reached a successful conciliation agreement with the employer. The company agreed to pay $530,000 to women who EEOC alleged were denied hire and also to provide significant targeted equitable relief including the adoption of an effective EEO policy prohibiting discrimination based on sex. The agreement also calls for anti-discrimination training for all human resources employees focused on preventing sex discrimination.

The EEOC successfully conciliated four systemic ADEA investigations alleging that the employers stopped allowing volunteer firefighters to accrue points for performing certain duties when they reached age 55 or 60. Total monetary benefits of over $1.4 million were agreed to for these firefighters through the conciliation agreements. The employers also changed their policies to bring them into compliance with the ADEA.
When the EEOC makes a finding that there is reasonable cause to believe that the company has engaged in a pattern or practice of systemic discrimination and efforts to secure voluntary compliance are not successful, the agency may choose to file suit to enforce the law. In FY 2014, the Commission filed 17 systemic lawsuits. These suits challenge a range of alleged systemic barriers, including:

Refusing to place African American applicants into front-of the-house restaurant positions;
Refusing to hire applicants over age 40 for front-of-the-house restaurant positions;
Inflexible leave and fitness for duty policies that deny reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities; and
Widespread harassment based on race, sex and national origin.

Our General Counsel, P. David Lopez will discuss our litigation program in greater detail during his testimony. Briefly, I would like to highlight that when the Commission files suit, our litigation program has been highly successful. EEOC favorably resolved 93 percent of the cases resolved last fiscal year. As a federal agency, we hold ourselves to a high standard. We carefully select the cases that we decide to litigate, and we strive to ensure all our work is pursued with excellence. Where we receive adverse decisions, we communicate lessons learned from significant cases across the agency to ensure that we continually improve our effectiveness and our service to the public.

Investing in Our Infrastructure to better serve the public

One of the agency’s greatest responsibilities is to provide timely and responsive service to both employees and employers involved in discrimination disputes. Through investments in staffing, training, and technology we are improving the quality of our customer service.

The EEOC continually strives to ensure that employees and employers resolve discrimination charges as promptly as possible. To do so, the agency must have the staff and resources to deliver a high level of service. Increases in the EEOC’s budget in FY 2009 and FY 2010 enabled the agency to hire 164 new investigators and mediators. Together with the training of these new staff and diligent charge management, these efforts generated nearly a 20 percent reduction in the charge workload in FY 2011 and FY 2012 – the first decreases in nearly 10 years.

These gains could not be sustained in FY 2013 due in part to attrition of front-line staff coupled with a hiring freeze and the effects of governmental sequestration when the EEOC had to furlough its entire workforce for five days. The government shutdown in the first quarter of FY 2014 also slowed the replacement of departing staff.

The FY 2014 appropriations, which included a $20 million increase for EEOC from the sequestration-impacted level FY 2013 budget, allowed the agency to launch a critical mid-year hiring effort in order to rebuild our workforce, particularly those who provide direct services to the public in the 53 field offices and who investigate, mediate, conciliate, and litigate pending discrimination claims. During the third and fourth quarters of FY 2014, EEOC hired approximately 116 investigators and 12 mediators, helping to restore much needed capacity to the front-line staffing levels and rebuild the enforcement capability of the field offices. As these new hires are trained and come on board, we expect to see the benefits of this hiring beginning in the third quarter of FY 2015. In addition, we are working to increase the speed in which we hire front-line staff this year and have approved 105 replacement hires since the beginning of the year. Our Office of the Chief Human Capital Officer is working with hiring managers to make full use of the hiring authorities and flexibilities available to streamline recruitment and selection procedures. We are also devoting additional resources to enable expedited job postings and applicant screenings.

In addition to hiring in FY 2015 and FY 2016, we will continue our focus on identifying creative approaches to addressing the pending workload and utilizing Priority Charge Handling Procedures to produce further reductions in the time frame for completing investigations of charges. In doing so, we will balance our efforts to address the pending workload while maintaining the highest levels of quality in our investigations and conciliations.

EEOC is also investing in systems to better serve the public, by using technology to increase responsiveness to employees and employers and to streamline and automate services to the public. For our private sector enforcement program, EEOC is developing systems that will allow charging parties and employers to check the status of their charge online, to transform the current paper system into a digital charge system, and to provide individuals with online-scheduling options for intake appointments. Earlier this month, we announced that 11 of our offices will begin a pilot program called ACT Digital to digitally transmit documents between the EEOC and employers regarding discrimination charges. This pilot program is an important first step in the EEOC’s move toward an online charge system that will streamline the submission of documents and communications for employees and employers. These efforts will improve our responsiveness to the public and efficiently utilize our resources by allowing investigators to spend more time investigating and resolving charges.

In FY 2013, EEOC deployed a Federal Sector equal employment opportunity portal to all federal agencies, to provide electronic submission and collection of Federal Agency Program Reporting workforce data. In FY 2015, EEOC will integrate the Federal Sector hearings and appeals data into the federal portal, which will be combined with complaint data, workforce data, and barrier analysis to build a more complete picture of how agencies are progressing in the development of model EEO programs. These efforts will enable us to provide additional education and guidance focused on pressing issues to assist federal agencies in implementing preventive measures to address workplace conflict. The end result of these efforts will be better customer service and a strengthened and more efficient agency.

Moving Forward

The Commission is working hard every day to fulfill the promise of equal employment opportunity. EEOC requested a budget of $373.1 million for FY 2016, an increase of $8.6 million above the FY 2015 enacted level of $364.5 million. The majority of this requested increase – $6.2 million is necessary to maintain our current staffing levels, and the remaining $2.4 million would allow investments in needed technology and fund increased rent and office relocations. These resources will allow EEOC to continue restoring our capacity in mission critical areas, repairing the adverse effects of recent budget cuts, addressing workload concerns, and continuing to implement our Strategic Plan to better serve the public.

Our commitment to fostering a more level playing field in the workplace is unwavering; yet, we know that we cannot do this alone. We are building active, engaged partnerships with employers and employees as well as across the federal government to develop creative solutions to the workplace challenges facing many employers and employees today. I appreciate the opportunity to share with the Committee the efforts and vision of the EEOC. I look forward to working with you to make this vision a reality, and I thank you again for your continued support.

I look forward to responding to any questions or comments you may have.

Taprite Fassco to Pay $72,500 to Settle EEOC Sex, Disability and Retaliation Discrimination Suit: Company Demoted Employee Because of Arthritis and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Federal Agency Charged (July 31, 2015)

Friday, July 31st, 2015

SAN ANTONIO, Texas – Taprite Fassco Manufacturing, Inc., a San Antonio-based manufacturer of CO2 regulators in the soda and beer industries, will pay $72,500 and furnish other relief to settle a gender, disability and retaliation-based discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.

The EEOC’s lawsuit charged that Taprite Fassco subjected a female quality control employee to sex-based wage discrimination, disability discrimination and unlawful retaliation after she raised questions to management concerning wage disparity between the sexes. The suit said that Taprite Fassco paid a male over three dollars an hour more than the female employee for performing substantially equal jobs at the same location. The federal agency claimed that the company also retaliated against the female employee for complaining about the wage discrimination by demoting her into a less favorable and lower-paying position that she could not perform because of physical limitations resulting from rheumatoid arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome. The EEOC’s lawsuit also alleged that Taprite Fassco denied the female employee’s requests for reasonable accommodation for her disability such as reassignment to her previous position that would have permitted her to continue working.

The claims resolved by the settlement of the EEOC’s enforcement action include violations of multiple federal anti-discrimination statutes, including the Equal Pay Act (EPA), Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed suit, Civil Action No. 5:14-cv-00801, in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, San Antonio Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

“Addressing sex-based pay disparity in the workplace remains a priority for the EEOC,” said David Rivela, senior trial attorney in the EEOC’s San Antonio Field Office (SAFO). “The EEOC will vigorously enforce the EPA and Title VII when we find an employer has no justifiable basis for paying a female less than a male counterpart. Employees have a right to seek redress of practices they believe are unlawful without repercussions that cost them even greater economic loss.”

Eduardo Juarez, EEOC supervisory trial attorney, added, “This case is important in that it puts a light on what continues to be a significant deficit in the earnings of women in the workplace when compared to men. The company’s decision to also deny her reasonable accommodation request so she could continue working exacerbated the problem.”

As part of the consent decree resolving the suit (entered by Judge David A. Ezra), Taprite Fassco will pay $72,500 to the former female employee. The company also agreed to ensure that its employment policies conform with the law, implement training which specifically addresses sex and disability discrimination, and post EEO notices at the workplace.

EEOC’s Dallas district director, Janet Elizondo, said, “We appreciate Taprite Fassco’s efforts to resolve this lawsuit quickly, fairly and without incurring unnecessary litigation expenses. This settlement, including the implementation of an effective policy against discrimination and EEO training, demonstrates a commitment to provide a non-discriminatory work environment for its employees.”

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the agency is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.

NTI Environmental Justice course in Austin, TX and Boston, MA (July 2015)

Thursday, July 30th, 2015

NTI will be holding the Environmental Justice training course on September 24-25, 2015 in Austin, TX and October 14-15, 2015 in Boston, MA.

Development of this training is sponsored by FTA’s Office of Planning and Environment in cooperation with the National Transit Institute. The training is intended to serve as guidance for practitioners, reviewers, and grantees on effective ways for integrating the consideration of Environmental Justice impacts throughout the transportation planning and project development / NEPA processes.

This training is designed to meet the needs of our grantees, while satisfying the requirements of Executive Order 12898 and U.S. DOT Order 5610.2(a) on Environmental Justice. The pilot is strictly limited to State DOT staff, RPO/MPO staff, and transit agency/provider staff.

If interested in the course, please sign up at: http://ntionline.com/courses/courseinfo.php?id=272

FTA new report: Accessible Transit Services for All (July 28, 2015)

Thursday, July 30th, 2015

Good Afternoon FTA,

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has posted a report, Accessible Transit Services for All, that provides a fresh look at paratransit and how agencies can improve service effectiveness and cost efficiency, a timely release with this week’s 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The report presents successful strategies for providing ADA-compliant paratransit. Featuring an assessment of ADA paratransit service design models, as well as an in-depth analysis of procurement and contracting practices, the report also identifies operational practices that can enhance service quality and cost efficiency, and successful examples of alternative, inclusive service designs that can provide improved transportation for all riders.

The report is funded by the FTA through a cooperative agreement with the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund and FTA’s Office of Research, Demonstration, and Innovation.

Go to http://www.fta.dot.gov/documents/FTA_Report_No._0081.pdf.

Justice Department Settles Lawsuit Alleging Disability Discrimination in Housing by the City of Petal, Mississippi (July 29, 2015)

Wednesday, July 29th, 2015

The Justice Department today announced an agreement with the city of Petal, Mississippi, to resolve allegations of discrimination against persons with intellectual disabilities who sought to live in supported housing in one of the city’s residential neighborhoods.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, alleges that the city violated the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act when it took actions to prevent three men with disabilities from residing together in a rented home on the same terms as non-disabled persons; under the city’s zoning code, up to four unrelated persons may reside together in a home in a residential neighborhood. The home at issue is run by Brandi’s Hope Community Services, LLC, a Magee, Mississippi-based company that provides around-the-clock support for residents.

Under the terms of the agreement, approved by the court on July 29, 2015, the city will pay $25,000 to Brandi’s Hope in monetary damages and $25,000 to the United States as a civil penalty. The city will take other remedial measures, including implementing the comprehensive reasonable accommodation policy and zoning code amendments it enacted as part of the settlement. The settlement also resolves a separate lawsuit against the city brought by Brandi’s Hope.

“Persons with disabilities have the right to live in and enjoy their communities, just as all families do throughout our nation,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, the head of the Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department will continue to eliminate discriminatory barriers that impede these individuals from doing so. We commend the city of Petal for working cooperatively with the department to reach this resolution.”

“This office is pleased that the city of Petal will now implement comprehensive reasonable accommodation policies and zoning code amendments that will allow persons with disabilities to enjoy the same right to live in the community as others,” said U.S. Attorney Gregory K. Davis of the Southern District of Mississippi. “These changes will positively impact the lives of many others with disabilities in the future.”

The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability and familial status. More information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces is available at www.justice.gov/crt. Persons who believe that they have experienced unlawful housing discrimination may contact the Justice Department at 1-800-896-7743, or by e-mail at fairhousing@usdoj.govEmail links icon, or contact the Department of Housing and Urban Development at 1-800-669-9777.

Office of Disability Employment Policy Newsletter (July 24, 2015)

Friday, July 24th, 2015

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

White House Celebrates ADA

The White House marked the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) earlier this week, with an event at which President Obama spoke about progress made and still to come, especially related to employment. “Americans with disabilities can do the job, and they’re hungry for the chance and they will make you proud if you give them the chance,” he said. The event was kicked off by Haben Girma, the first student who is deaf-blind to attend Harvard Law School. In coordination with the event, the White House released a fact sheet outlining the Obama administration’s disability-related efforts.

DOL Commemorates ADA25

This week the U.S. Department of Labor hosted an event featuring disability employment champions Senator Tom Harkin and Delaware Governor Jack Markell, both of whom contributed their opinions and insight about its impact and promise related to employment in a conversation with Secretary of Labor Tom Perez. The event was one of a series of DOL activities to mark the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Advisory Committee on Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment for Individuals with Disabilities to Meet August 10, 2015

The Advisory Committee on Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment for Individuals with Disabilities (the Committee) will hold its fifth meeting on August 10, 2015, by Webinar, from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM EDT. During the meeting, the Committee will discuss the draft of the interim report, and will vote on whether to approve the interim report. Members of the public wishing to participate in the Webinar must register in advance, by July 31, 2015. Organizations or members of the public wishing to submit a written statement may do so by July 31, 2015. Instructions on submitting comments can be found in the Federal Register Notice.

Secretary Perez Visits Northrop Grumman to Discuss Disability Inclusion

Secretary of Labor Tom Perez visited Northrop Grumman’s headquarters in Virginia this week to talk with its workers and management about how they deliver on the global services firm and federal contractor’s commitment to disability inclusion. “Northrop Grumman has been in the vanguard when it comes to hiring people with disabilities, recognizing the assets they bring to the table and adopting innovative policies to ensure they are accommodated in the workplace,” noted Perez in a blog post about his visit, which was one of many events he participated in this week to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Letter to Governors on Employment First

On July 22, 2015, Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard, and Delaware Governor Jack Markell signed a letter to the Governors of States and U.S. territories urging them to adopt policies and practices that promote the employment of people with significant disabilities in integrated settings earning at or above the minimum wage.

Senator Tom Harkin Discusses the Role of Employment in Advancing the ADA

This week, Senator Tom Harkin, author and sponsor of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), wrote a blog post for Disability.gov about the progress he feels the law has made in the 25 years since its enactment and the work still to come, especially related to employment. He also recognized companies that have demonstrated exemplary disability inclusion efforts, calling on others to follow their lead in order to deliver on the ADA’s promise over the next 25 years.

Webinar to Address Employment of Women with Disabilities

On Tuesday, July 28 at 1:00 p.m. ET, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau will host “Women and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA),” a webinar addressing the ADA’s impact on the employment of women, including issues related to pregnancy and domestic violence. Featured speakers will include Jennifer Sheehy, Acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy; Rachael Langston, Staff Attorney at the Legal Aid Society’s Employment Law Center; and Anna Darzins, Haas Scholar at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Social Welfare.

NDEAM 2015 Poster Now Available

The official 2015 National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) poster is now available, along with various other materials that can assist employers and organizations in planning observances. Held each October, NDEAM is a time to celebrate the diverse contributions of America’s workers with disabilities. The theme for this year — which is NDEAM’s 70th anniversary — is “My Disability is One Part of Who I Am.”

Awards Ceremony to Recognize WRP Participants

The annual Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP) Awards Ceremony will take place on July 28 at the National Youth Transitions Center in Washington, D.C. At the event, four WRP participants will receive the Judith C. Gilliom Award, which recognizes those who exemplify exceptional service and the positive contributions of individuals with disabilities to the federal workforce. The awards are named for the U.S. Department of Defense’s (DoD) Disability Program Manager for 25 years and one of the founders of the WRP, which is co-sponsored by DoD and ODEP.

Guide Helps Employers Create Inclusive Internship Programs

The Office of Disability Employment Policy recently released a new resource for employers seeking to diversity their workforce with the skills and talents of people with disabilities, especially young adults with disabilities. Inclusive Internship Programs: A How-to Guide for Employers addresses the benefits of internships to both individuals and employers and the various things employers should consider when establishing internship programs to ensure they are open to all qualified candidates.

Complete Getting to Work Training Curriculum for HIV/AIDS Service Providers Now Available

All three modules of Getting to Work: A Training Curriculum for HIV/AIDS Service Providers and Housing Providers are now available. This multi-media curriculum educates about proven strategies for incorporating employment into the HIV/AIDS service menu and was developed collaboratively by the Office of Disability Employment Policy and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of HIV/AIDS Housing, with input from several organizations leading the way on this issue.

PEAT Marks ADA25 with New Web Content

In celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the ODEP-funded Partnership on Employment & Accessible Technology (PEAT) has published a blog post by policy thought leader Bobby Silverstein on the ADA’s past and future impact on accessible workplace technology. Other new features of PEATworks.org include an interview with disability rights lawyer Lainey Feingold, as well as an updated site design and navigation. PEAT encourages users to check out PEATworks.org’s new look and join the conversation around accessible technology’s impact on the employment of people with disabilities.

EEOC Updates Schedule A Series

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, in partnership with the Office of Disability Employment Policy and the Office of Personnel Management, recently updated The ABCs of Schedule A, a series of guides that provide information about the Schedule A appointing authority, which allows for the expedited, non-competitive hiring of qualified individuals with disabilities by federal agencies. The series comprises five guides in total, one each for hiring managers, HR professionals, disability program managers, service providers and applicants with disabilities.

NCSL Honors ADA25, Issues New State Resource Package

In honor of the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) issued a blog post about state-level efforts to increase the workforce inclusion of people with disabilities and resources that can assist state policymakers in doing so, including a new customizable resource package it helped develop as part of its partnership in the ODEP-funded National Employer Policy, Research and Technical Assistance Center for Employers on the Employment of People with Disabilities.

Women’s Bureau Shines a Light on Employment of Women with Disabilities

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau recently released two publications specific to the employment of women with disabilities — an issue brief titled Key Characteristics of Working Women with Disabilities and a fact sheet titled A Guide to Hiring Women with Disabilities. The former provides a summary of demographic information, while the latter addresses the potential benefits of hiring women with disabilities and promising practices for recruitment and retention.

Updated National HIV/AIDS Strategy Sets Priorities through 2020

The White House Office of National AIDS Policy will release the “National HIV/AIDS Strategy: Updated to 2020″ on July 30, 2015. The updated Strategy will be released in Atlanta, Georgia, and the entire event will be live streamed.

Office of Disability Employment Policy: Business Sense (July 2015)

Friday, July 24th, 2015

Celebrating 25 Years of the ADA

On July 26, we mark the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) — the landmark piece of civil rights legislation that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in all aspects of community life, including employment. Observances of “ADA25″ have ensued all summer long, and among those celebrating are the millions of people with disabilities working in jobs they love, as well as the employers who have benefitted from their skills and talents.

As part of a series of activities to commemorate ADA25, the U.S. Department of Labor has developed a special interactive webpage. Among its features is a timeline chronicling the historical milestones that led up to the ADA’s passage in 1990 and that have carried its spirit forward since. The department is also collecting worker photos and stories that illustrate, through personal experiences, the importance of the ADA in increasing employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

Each profile paints an inspiring portrait of real people with disabilities at work in America’s businesses, large and small. They illustrate how the ADA has opened doors of opportunity, directly impacting people’s employment and life trajectories for the better.

Individuals with disabilities and/or employers of workers with disabilities from across the nation are invited to add to the collection by submitting their own employment story. Employers can also engage in the ADA25 festivities by promoting the anniversary through their communication channels, alerting their employees to the milestone, hosting disability-inclusion events for staff, and kicking-off their planning for National Disability Employment Awareness Month in October.

By marking the ADA’s anniversary as the crucial civil rights milestone that it is, all of us can demonstrate a commitment to delivering on the ADA’s promise — for today’s workers with disabilities, as well as future generations.

For additional news and resources, sign up for ODEP’s e-mail updates. Go to www.dol.gov/odep.