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Jury Awards $240,000 to Muslim Truck Drivers In EEOC Religious Discrimination Suit (Oct. 2015)

Sunday, October 25th, 2015

Star Transport Fired Truckers for Refusing to Transport Alcohol, Federal Agency Charged

CHICAGO – A federal jury in Peoria, Ill., has awarded $240,000 to two Somalian-American Muslims who were fired from their jobs as truck drivers at Star Transport, an over-the-road trucking company, when they refused to transport alcohol because it violated their religious beliefs, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which brought the case. The trial started on Oct. 19, and the jury returned its verdict the next day after 45 minutes of deliberation.

Judge James E. Shadid, the chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois, found in favor of EEOC after Star Transport admitted liability in March 2015. The resulting trial was to determine compensatory and punitive damages and back pay. The jury awarded Mahad Abass Mohamed and Abdkiarim Hassan Bulshale $20,000 each in compensatory damages and $100,000 each in punitive damages. Judge Shadid awarded each approximately $1,500 in back pay.

EEOC alleged that in 2009, Star Transport fired Mohamed and Bulshale after they were required to transport alcohol. Both men told Star Transport that they believed doing so would violate their religious beliefs under Islamic law.

EEOC also alleged that Star Transport could have but failed to accommodate the truckers’ religious beliefs, as required by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Star Transport, Inc., No. 13-cv-1240) in U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois in Peoria in May 2013.

“EEOC is proud to support the rights of workers to equal treatment in the workplace without having to sacrifice their religious beliefs or practices,” said EEOC General Counsel David Lopez. “This is fundamental to the American principles of religious freedom and tolerance.”

The case was litigated by EEOC Trial Attorneys Aaron DeCamp and June Calhoun and Supervisory Trial Attorney Diane Smason.

Calhoun said, “This is an awesome outcome. Star Transport failed to provide any discrimination training to its human resources personnel, which led to catastrophic results for these employees. They suffered real injustice that needed to be addressed. By this verdict, the jury remedied the injustice by sending clear messages to Star Transport and other employers that they will be held accountable for their unlawful employment practices. Moreover, they signaled to Mr. Mohamed and Mr. Bulshale that religious freedom is a right for all Americans.”

Smason stated, “We are pleased that the jury recognized that these – and all – employees are entitled to observe and practice their faith, no matter what that might be.”

Bulshale commented, “This case makes me proud to be American.”

EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about EEOC is available on its website, www.eeoc.gov.

Justice Department Settles Immigration-Related Discrimination Claim Against Miami-Dade County Public Schools (Oct. 22, 2015)

Sunday, October 25th, 2015

The Justice Department announced today that it reached a settlement with Miami Dade County Public Schools (MDCPS) resolving claims that MDCPS discriminated against employees because of their citizenship status in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

The department’s investigation, conducted by the Civil Rights Division’s Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices (OSC), found that MDCPS required non-U.S. citizens, but not similarly-situated U.S. citizens, to present specific documents to prove their employment eligibility. The INA’s anti-discrimination provision prohibits employers from making specific documentary demands based on citizenship or national origin when verifying an employee’s authorization to work.

“Employers must ensure that their human resources staff understand proper hiring practices,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Civil Rights Division. “Promoting compliance is especially important to ensure that workers are not excluded due to discriminatory treatment.”

Under the settlement agreement, MDCPS will pay a $90,000 civil penalty to the United States and will establish a $125,000 back pay fund to compensate individuals who lost wages because of the MDCPS’ practices. Among other things, the settlement also requires MDCPS to undergo compliance monitoring for three years, permit OSC to train MDCPS students on worker rights, and train its human resources employees on the anti-discrimination provision of the INA.

OSC is responsible for enforcing the anti-discrimination provision of the INA. Among other things, the statute prohibits citizenship status and national origin discrimination in hiring, firing or recruitment or referral for a fee; unfair documentary practices; retaliation; and intimidation. Trial Attorney Liza Zamd of the Civil Rights Division handled this matter.

For more information about protections against employment discrimination under immigration laws, call OSC’s worker hotline at 1-800-255-7688 (1-800-237-2515, TTY for hearing impaired); call OSC’s employer hotline at 1-800-255-8155 (1-800-237-2515, TTY for hearing impaired); sign up for a free webinar at www.justice.gov/crt/about/osc/webinars.php, email osccrt@usdoj.govEmail links icon; or visit OSC’s website at www.justice.gov/crt/about/osc.

Applicants or employees who believe they were subjected to different documentary requirements based on their citizenship, immigration status or national origin; or discrimination based on their citizenship, immigration status or national origin in hiring, firing, or recruitment or referral for a fee should contact OSC’s worker hotline for assistance.

Office of Disability Employment Policy Newsletter (Oct. 23, 2015)

Friday, October 23rd, 2015

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

Deputy Assistant Secretary Sheehy Celebrates NDEAM with the Coast Guard

Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy Jennifer Sheehy kicked-off the US Coast Guard’s observance of National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) on October 21 at a special event for members of its military and civilian workforce in Washington, D.C., updating participants on the federal government’s efforts to recruit, retain and advance qualified people with disabilities, including wounded warriors. “Those of us with disabilities have many sides to ourselves. We all have many diverse factors that make us who we are,” said Sheehy. “And smart employers — like the Coast Guard — understand the value of an inclusive workplace that welcomes all of them.”

Nineteen Core States in FY2016: ODEP’s Employment First State Leadership Mentoring Program is Growing Strong

The Office of Disability Employment Policy is has selected the core states in ODEP’s Employment First State Leadership Mentoring Program (EFSLMP) for FY 2016: Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Utah. Since its inception in FY2012, the EFSLMP has provided intensive onsite and virtual technical assistance to cross-system state government teams to further their efforts to increase competitive, integrated employment outcomes for all individuals with disabilities. In addition to the EFSLMP technical assistance offerings to its core states, ODEP will continue to host its virtual National Employment First Community of Practice, which now includes approximately 1,200 participants across 44 states. Webinars are held monthly, and membership is open to disability policy stakeholders in all fifty states.

Topps Launches “Pride & Perseverance” Set to Celebrate Past and Present Major Leaguers with Disabilities

Topps, the official baseball card of Major League Baseball, has launched “Pride & Perseverance,” a special insert set in 2015 Topps Baseball Update Series that celebrates Major League players with disabilities from the past and present. The set was released on October 21, in time to celebrate the 70th anniversary of National Disability Employment Awareness Month and to honor 25 years of the Americans with Disabilities Act. In 2014, the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society (PBATS), an ODEP Alliance partner, proposed the special card series featuring players with disabilities, within Topps’ 2015 set. “People with disabilities are often looked at for what they can’t do instead of being appreciated for what they can do. We hope these cards will help people take a closer look at the potential of people with disabilities,” said Mark O’Neal, PBATS President and Chicago Cubs Director of Medical Administration.

My Job Search: A Story of Solidarity in the Disability Community

In a posting on Disability.blog, Lindsey Teel, policy advisor with the Office of Disability Employment Policy, discussed her long journey to obtain her current position at ODEP, with the help of the disability community in Washington, DC. “There is strength in numbers, and if we apply that principle to all areas of our lives, there is no limit to what we can achieve as a community,” said Teel.

Connecting Partners and Resources to Prepare Youth for Careers: A Federal Partners in Transition Webinar — November 10, 1:00-2:30 PM EST

The Federal Partners in Transition (FPT) will be hosting a webinar, “Connecting Partners and Resources to Prepare Youth for Careers,” November 10, 1:00-2:30 PM EST. The FPT workgroup highlights the coordinated strategies of four major federal agencies, including the Department of Education, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Labor, and the Social Security Administration. The webinar will focus on educational practices, career development and employment strategies, and benefits counseling, and is designed to inform the transition community including students and youth with disabilities, their family members, practitioners, vocational rehabilitation counselors, educators, public and private sector agencies, and other partners about a wide variety of federally funded resources. Registration is open through November 9.

PEAT Issues Newsletter, Announces October 28th Twitter Chat on BYOD and Other Accessible Technology Practices

This week, the ODEP-funded Partnership on Employment & Accessible Technology (PEAT) issued its October newsletter, which spotlights upcoming events and various PEAT activities related to National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). Among the announcements is a Twitter chat on leading accessible technology practices that PEAT will be hosting on October 28 from 2:00 – 2:30 EDT. The chat will build upon PEAT’s October “PEAT Talk” on “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) policies and explore other ways to foster technology-accessible workplaces through universal design. Participants can join this real-time Twitter conversation by following @PEATworks and tagging their posts with the hashtag #PEATtalks.

Job Accommodation Network Features Publications on Disability Disclosure

Deciding if, when, and how to share disability-related information with a prospective or current employer can be overwhelming. The decision-making process requires answering a number of personal questions that may be different with each employment experience. There is no single right or wrong approach to disclosing a disability. To assist with this process, the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) has a number of publications on its website about disclosure, including the new “Disability Disclosure and Employment — JAN Effective Accommodation Practices Series.” It is a summary of issues and answers to some of the most frequently asked questions related to disability disclosure and the Americans with Disabilities Act, and is relevant to both individuals with disabilities and employers.

New LEAD Center Guest Blog Post from Autistic Self Advocacy Network

Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN), a LEAD Center National Partner, recently penned a guest post at the LEAD Center Blog titled “CMS’ New HCBS Regulations Opens the Door to Competitive Employment for People with Disabilities.” ASAN’s post reflects on recent policy changes that have potential to significantly improve employment outcomes for people with disabilities. In particular, the post highlights the recent Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) regulations that require states receiving Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) Medicaid funding to use such funds for settings integrated into the broader community for people without disabilities, optimize individual initiative and personal independence, and provide access to competitive integrated employment.

“Requesting a Reasonable Accommodation” Pocket Card Now Available

The US Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) has created a new “Requesting a Reasonable Accommodation” pocket card. The pocket card helps applicants, employees, and other interested parties understand the process for requesting a reasonable accommodation. The pocket card is a part of OFCCP’s continuing outreach and education efforts to stakeholders regarding their rights under Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act. Copies may be obtained by contacting OFCCP’s Help Desk at 1-800-397-6251.

Education Department Awards over $12.6 Million in Grants to Improve Employment Opportunities for Individuals with Disabilities

The US Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services has announced more than $12.6 million in grants in multiple project areas to help people with disabilities become self-sufficient, live independently, and participate fully in their communities. “We want all individuals with disabilities to have opportunities and succeed,” said US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “These are part of our commitment to ensuring all students — no matter their zip code, family income or disability — have a chance to be successful in college, careers and life.”

SSA’s Office of Disability Policy Hosts “Reasonable Accommodations” Online Dialogue Through October 30

The Social Security Administration’s (SSA) Office of Disability Policy is inviting its stakeholders to participate in a crowdsourcing event on “Reasonable Accommodations.” In an effort to keep pace with changes in medicine, health care practice, technology, and the world of work, SSA continuously scans the environment to determine if there are advances that it should consider in its program. Through this online dialogue, SSA is specifically interested in learning if there are reasonable accommodations so widely available nationally that they are rather commonplace and therefore should be considered in decision-making. Participants are asked to provide ideas and comments through October 30.

OFCCP Develops a Reasonable Accommodation Pocket Card (Oct. 2015)

Wednesday, October 21st, 2015

OFCCP created a new “Requesting a Reasonable Accommodation” pocket card. The pocket card helps applicants, employees and other interested parties understand the process for requesting a reasonable accommodation. The card uses simple language and answers these four common questions about seeking a reasonable accommodation:

• What is a reasonable accommodation?

• How do I request a reasonable accommodation?

• What do I need to tell my employer?

• What happens after the request is made?

The pocket card is a part of OFCCP’s continuing outreach and education efforts to stakeholders regarding their rights under Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act and is available on OFCCP’s Web site at (www.dol.gov/ofccp). Copies may be attained by contacting OFCCP’s Help Desk at 1-800-397-6251.

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

Office of Disability Employment Policy: Business Sense (Oct. 20, 2015)

Wednesday, October 21st, 2015

“Be Counted!” — Encouraging Employees with Disabilities to Self-Identify

Today, smart businesses take steps to foster flexible, inclusive cultures where all employees — including those with disabilities — feel comfortable bringing their “whole selves” to work. By eliminating fear of discrimination, such “disability-friendly” workplaces can help boost productivity and morale, at both the individual and organizational levels.

Key to this inclusion strategy — particularly for federal contractors subject to Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act — is inviting job applicants and employees to voluntarily self-identify if they have a disability. After all, many disabilities are not visible to the eye, so collecting this information is essential to helping federal contractors measure their progress toward meeting their goals under the law.

But some employees with disabilities might need some convincing. They may need to be reminded that self-identifying is a good thing, and that the information they volunteer cannot be used against them or shared with their supervisor or co-workers. More importantly, they need an understanding of the key role that self-identifying plays in ensuring equal employment opportunity for people with disabilities.

To assist on this front, the Labor Department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs has released a short online video titled “Disability Inclusion Starts with You.” Employers that do business with the federal government — including small business contractors — can download and post this video on their Intranet or company websites, and share it with employees and job applicants who may be reluctant to self-identify. The simple tool encourages employees with disabilities to “be counted.” It reinforces the notion that increasing the representation of people with disabilities in the workplace is the goal — and that achieving it starts with them.

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

Office of Disability Employment Policy Newsletter (Oct. 16, 2015)

Saturday, October 17th, 2015

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

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

The US Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has published a report that provides data on the representation of people with disabilities in the federal workforce since the signing of Executive Order 13548 — Increasing the Federal Employment of People with Disabilities. The report found that by the end of Fiscal Year (FY) 2014, total permanent federal employment for people with disabilities had increased from 234,395 in FY 2013 to 247,608, representing an increase from 12.80 percent to 13.56 percent. New hires with disabilities totaled 20,615, representing an increase from 18.18 percent in FY 2013 to 19.74 percent in FY2014.

“Disability Inclusion Starts with You” Video Released by OFCCP

To assist in the implementation of the revised regulations of Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the US Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) has released a new video, “Disability Inclusion Starts with You,” outlining the value of self-disclosure of disability by job applicants and new hires for employment with federal contractors. OFCCP Director Pat Shiu authored a blog on the subject, noting that “When workers and job seekers understand their employment rights, and are more confident that those rights will be protected, they are more likely to accept employers’ invitations to voluntarily self-identify. Therefore, at OFCCP we believe that providing workers with multiple opportunities to voluntarily self-identify, and explaining why self-identifying is important, is a good thing — it’s how things begin to change.”

Stay-at-Work/Return-to-Work Policy Collaborative Hosts Policy Forum and Live Webinar — October 22, 11:45 AM-1:30 PM EDT

The Stay-at-Work/Return-to-Work Policy Collaborative, funded by the US Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy, is hosting a policy forum and live webinar, “Promoting Stay-at-Work/Return-to-Work Policies: Recommendations to Help Workers Who Experience Illness or Injury,” on October 22, 11:45 AM-1:30 PM EDT in Washington, DC. This forum will present the findings of three expert-led policy workgroups that have developed actionable recommendations to help workers keep their jobs if they experience a potentially career-ending medical condition. Check-in and a complimentary lunch for those attending the event in person begin at 11:45 AM, and the program begins at 12:00 PM. All in-person guests must sign in and present a photo ID.

Share Your NDEAM Celebrations!

Are you planning an event to celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM)? Has your local newspaper written an NDEAM-themed article? If you want to share your NDEAM activities with us, please send them along to Share@NDEAM.org. We will add them to the “NDEAM News and Events from around the Nation” page on the Office of Disability Employment Policy’s website.

“Making My Way through College” Guide Published by NCWD/Youth

“Making My Way through College” is a guide for any student pursuing a degree or other type of credential (e.g., certification, license) at a two-year or four-year community college, college, or university. Published by the National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth (NCWD/Youth) the guide provides information on a variety of topics relevant to preparing for and succeeding in college and transitioning from college into the world of work. Much of the guide is relevant to all students, but the primary focus is on navigating the college experience for students with disabilities or those who think they may have a disability. Families and professionals who work with students entering or in postsecondary education are encouraged to share this guide with any students who may benefit from the information.

Job Accommodation Network Posts Two New Blogs

The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) has posted two new blogs: “Strategies for Developing a Transgender-Inclusive Workplace” and “Mental Health Awareness — Creating a More Inclusive Workplace.” JAN consultants discuss workplace issues around these important topics, providing background information, accommodation suggestions, and ways to promote fair, respectful, and stigma-free work environments.

Integrating Financial Capability and Asset Building Strategies into the Public Workforce Development System

While employment is critical to attaining a stronger economic future for American workers, the development of financial capability skills and strategies related to personal savings, asset building, managing credit, and individual budgeting are critical for sustaining financial security. This security in turn, helps individuals achieve and maintain employment outcomes. American Job Centers (AJCs) are uniquely positioned to extend the promise of financial stability to prospective job seekers and workers with disabilities by serving as a bridge to accessing accurate informational resources and successful strategies to assist in improving one’s financial capability. Through collaborative efforts with other federal agencies, Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) mandated partners, community-based organizations, local asset building programs, and the financial services sector, America’s workforce development system can leverage the power of partnerships to facilitate access to financial capability services for their customers within American Job Centers and in the broader community. The LEAD Center has released a report describing some of the replicable models that AJCs have established to provide financial capability services.

PEAT Celebrates NDEAM, Seeks Personal Experiences with Accessible Technology

Given accessible technology’s crucial role in advancing the employment of people with disabilities, the Partnership on Employment & Accessible Technology (PEAT) is enthusiastically observing National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) — and encouraging employers, technology providers and users to do the same. As part of its celebration, PEAT is using its NDEAM web page to showcase a guest blog post on “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) policies penned by Accessibility Partners’ Dana Marlowe, as well as personal stories that demonstrate the power of accessible technology in fueling the employment success of people with disabilities. Employees with disabilities and employers who have insights to share in this area are invited to submit a short success story today. The capstone of PEAT’s NDEAM activities will be a Twitter chat on BYOD and other leading practices related to accessible technology and universal design in the workplace. All are invited to join this collaborative Twitter conversation on October 28 from 2:00-2:30 PM EDT using the hashtag #PEATtalks.

Latest EARN Newsletter Now Available

The Employer Assistance and Resource Network (EARN) has issued its October 14 newsletter, a special National Disability Employment Awareness Month edition. It features information on the US Business Leadership Network’s annual leadership awards, the State Department’s #WithoutLimits campaign, disability etiquette, and more. EARN is a service of the National Employer Policy, Research and Technical Assistance Center for Employers on the Employment of People with Disabilities, which is funded by ODEP under a cooperative agreement with The Viscardi Center.

LEAD Center Archived Webinar — Section 188, the Nondiscrimination Provisions of WIOA

The LEAD Center, funded by the Office of Disability Employment Policy, hosted a four-part webinar series titled “WIOA from a Disability Perspective.” This final installment in the series, “Section 188, the Nondiscrimination Provisions of WIOA,” has now been archived. The webinar focuses on Section 188 of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), which prohibits discrimination against people who apply to, participate in, work for, or come into contact with programs and activities of the workforce development system. Specifically, Section 188 prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, sexual orientation, or political affiliation or beliefs. WIOA requires that American Job Centers (AJCs) be fully accessible and offer necessary accommodations so that job seekers with disabilities can effectively and meaningfully participate in AJC skills training and career pathways for 21st century jobs.

US Labor Department settles allegations of systemic hiring discrimination at Hospira Inc., in McPherson, Kansas (Oct. 13, 2015)

Thursday, October 15th, 2015

WASHINGTON – Hospira Inc., a government contractor, discriminated against women in violation of Executive Order 11246 when it denied jobs to 145 female applicants for pharmacy attendant positions at its McPherson, Kansas, facility, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs found.

“Discrimination is preventable when employers have nondiscriminatory selection procedures in place and see to it that they are followed,” said OFCCP Director Patricia Shiu. “Hospira has worked proactively with our agency to resolve the alleged discrimination and to ensure that all required employment records will be maintained going forward.”

In its investigation, OFCCP found that discriminatory selection practices resulted in qualified female applicants being hired at much lower rates than similarly qualified male applicants. OFCCP also found that Hospira violated record-keeping requirements by failing to preserve employment applications and interview forms.

These violations occurred while Hospira received more than $35 million in contracts for developing and manufacturing injection medications for the U.S. government.

In its conciliation agreement with OFCCP, Hospira has committed to hire 11 female class members during the agreement’s monitoring period. The company will also pay $400,000 in back wages with interest to the 145 female job applicants who were denied positions. The company did not admit liability.

In addition to Executive Order 11246, OFCCP enforces Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974. As amended, these three laws require that contractors and subcontractors doing business with the federal government not discriminate in employment on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability or status as a protected veteran. For more information, please call OFCCP’s toll-free helpline at 800-397-6251 or visit http://www.dol.gov/ofccp/.

OFCCP recently launched the Class Member Locator (CML). The purpose of the CML is to identify applicants and/or workers who have been impacted by OFCCP’s compliance evaluations and complaint investigations and who may be entitled to a portion of monetary relief and/or consideration for job placement under an OFCCP conciliation agreement. If you think you may be a female class member, please visit our website at: http://www.dol.gov/ofccp/CML/index.htm, where you can also find information about other recent OFCCP settlements.

Media Contacts:

Scott Allen, 312-353-6976, allen.scott@dol.gov

Rhonda Burke, 312-353-6976, burke.rhonda@dol.gov

OFCCP Posts Video Encouraging Self-Identification of Disability (Oct. 2015)

Thursday, October 15th, 2015

In conjunction with the Department of Labor’s celebration of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) has posted a short video entitled Disability Inclusion Starts With You. This public service announcement-style video encourages applicants and employees with disabilities to voluntarily self-identify by explaining the key role that self-identification plays in measuring contractors’ progress toward achieving equal employment opportunity for people with disabilities. The video also explains the Section 503 requirement that contractors invite voluntary self-identification from their applicants and employees, and the strictly confidential nature of any disability information provided.

Contractors may wish to download and post the video on their Intranet or company Web sites to share with their employees and job applicants who may be reluctant to self-identify, or who may not understand why they are being asked to self-identify. Disability organizations and community groups may also wish to share the video with their members to encourage them to voluntarily self-identify when invited to do so by an employer that is a federal contractor.

The Disability Inclusion Starts With You video is available online for viewing or download at http://www.dol.gov/ofccp/SelfIdVideo.html, and can also be accessed from either the OFCCP home page or the OFCCP Section 503 Web page.

Justice Department Resolves ADA Employment Discrimination Case Against Riverside County, California (Oct. 2015)

Sunday, October 11th, 2015

Today the Justice Department has reached a settlement agreement with Riverside County, California, resolving claims alleging that the county violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The complaint, filed on Sept. 28, 2015, alleges that the county discriminated in its employment practices by failing to hire a probation officer applicant because he has epilepsy. The job applicant was qualified for and could perform the job duties associated with the position, but the county withdrew his offer of employment solely because of his controlled epilepsy.

“Refusal to employ qualified individuals with disabilities, including epilepsy, because of their disability cannot be tolerated by workers in our country and will not be tolerated by the Department of Justice,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Civil Rights Division.

“All qualified individuals, including those with disabilities, are entitled to equal employment opportunities,” said U.S. Attorney Eileen M. Decker of the Central District of California. “This settlement demonstrates the Department of Justice’s ongoing commitment to eliminating all forms of discrimination.”

Under the consent decree, which must be approved by the court, the county will pay the applicant $50,000, offer him the position as a probation officer, provide training on the ADA and file reports on its compliance with the decree and ADA with the Justice Department. The county, which cooperated with the department in this matter, has also taken steps to ensure that its employment processes will be free of disability based discrimination.

Title I of the ADA prohibits employers, such as Riverside County, from discriminating against a qualified individual on the basis of disability in regard to job application procedures, the hiring, advancement or discharge of employees, employee compensation, job training and other terms, conditions and privileges of employment. An employer may also not deny employment opportunities to a job applicant or employee who is otherwise qualified if the denial is based on the need to make reasonable accommodations for the applicant or employee. This matter was based on a referral from the Los Angeles District office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission who completed the initial investigation of the facts.

Those interested in finding out more about federal disability rights statutes can call the Justice Department’s toll-free ADA Information Line at (800) 514-0301 or (800) 514-0383 (TDD), or access the ADA website at www.ada.gov.

Henry’s Turkey Service, Heirs Must Turn over Almost $600,000 Owed to Disabled Workers (Sept. 2015)

Sunday, October 11th, 2015

EEOC and U.S. Attorney Successfully Intervene in Deal That Would Have Diverted Monies Away From Victims of Discrimination

DALLAS – U.S. District Chief Judge Jorge A. Solis issued an order on September 11, 2015, to override a confidential settlement that would have re-directed over half a million dollars away from a class of 32 intellectually disabled former employees of Hill Country Farms, Inc. (HCF), dba Henry’s Turkey Service.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) had asked the U.S. attorney’s office for the Northern District of Texas to monitor a suspicious land deal — a financial arrangement that would have resulted in a total of approximately $600,000 changing hands in settlement of an action for declaratory judgment filed in Mills County, Texas, where Henry’s Turkey Service was based. As a result, the U.S. attorney’s office found evidence of what it found to be a fraudulent transaction and filed an emergency motion for a court intervention.

When issuing the order, Judge Solis wrote: “The Court does not believe it is by accident that the settlement proceeds make their way to the children of HCF’s owners, all while avoiding the reach of the United States. This was an intentional scheme concocted solely to shield a substantial sum of money from the United States’ collection efforts. Accordingly, the Court finds … any benefit due to the Estate under the Settlement Agreement is the property of HCF and, as such, is subject to this Court’s authority to aid the United States in obtaining satisfaction of its judgment against Henry and HCF.”

The U.S. attorney and EEOC had filed briefs seeking the court’s intervention to prevent the injustice that the government alleged would result if a secret side agreement were allowed to control a settlement of the Mills County action.

EEOC and the U.S. attorney were able to intercept and secure the monies as part of an effort to collect over $3 million in unpaid judgments obtained by two federal agencies against Henry’s Turkey for wages, financial exploitation, discrimination and abusive conduct against the disabled adults who worked in Texas and Iowa for decades while never being paid more than $65 per month.

The Motion for Turnover Order filed by the U.S. attorney in Case No. 3:12-CV-4737-P in the Dallas federal court sought to collect on both the $3.74 million judgment (2013) in favor of EEOC under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), against Hill Country Farms, dba Henry’s Turkey Service, and an earlier $1.7 million judgment (2011) by the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) against the same defendant and corporate officer, Kenneth Henry, for minimum wage and overtime violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

“Since the time when most of the men were rescued from their deplorable working conditions in 2009, they have been waiting for compensation,” said Robert Canino, regional attorney for EEOC’s Dallas District Office, who worked closely with the U.S. attorney’s office in the collection. “The jury verdict in 2013 struck a blow toward justice and brought to light important discrimination issues; however, the monetary aspect of the legal remedies has been slow in coming. While the case has been very important in furthering societal dialogue on employment practices that can be misused to exploit the disabled, EEOC has not relented in its pursuit of the dollar compensation that these men earned by their sweat and their suffering.”

On May 1, 2013, a jury in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa in Davenport rendered a verdict of $240 million in favor of the 32 workers. The jury found that for years during their employment, the intellectually disabled men went unpaid and were subjected to substandard living conditions, restrictions on personal freedoms, denial of medical care and harsh discipline as well as verbal and physical harassment. The jury found further that the treatment suffered was because of the contracted turkey processing workers’ vulnerability as persons with intellectual disabilities.

This largest jury verdict ever obtained by EEOC was later reduced to $1.6 million, representing $50,000 in compensatory and punitive damages per man based on applicable statutory caps under the Civil Rights Act of 1991. An earlier award for unpaid market wages for a two-year period, together with the damages for the treatment, brought EEOC’s total judgment to $3.74 million. Notwithstanding the elusiveness of the company’s assets in the years surrounding the litigation, collection of the judg­ment through garnishments and liens had recently reached an accumulated amount of about $272,000 prior to this latest court order. The confidential agreement to change the beneficiaries of the Texas land deal to re-direct proceeds away from possible payment for the discrimination was dated July 2013, only one month after the June 2013 final entry of judgment in favor of EEOC in the discrimin­ation case.

If the company and private parties involved comply with the court’s order, the government will begin a process for distribution of over $850,000 collected to date to the class members. EEOC will coordinate with the U.S. Department of Labor to begin the distribution plan and process.

Protecting vulnerable workers is one of the six strategic enforcement priorities identified by the Commission. EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. Further information about the agency is available at www.eeoc.gov.