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OFCCP Announces a Final Rule to Promote Pay Transparency (Nov. 2015)

Monday, November 30th, 2015

In too many workplaces around the country, women and people of color don’t know what their counterparts are earning for the same work. A culture of secrecy prevents them from finding out if they are being discriminated against in time to act on it. Lilly Ledbetter learned, only after decades at her job, that she had been paid less than her male counterparts. Her company’s policy forbidding her from discussing pay with co-workers prevented her from getting the information she needed to bring a complaint in time. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act, the first piece of legislation signed by President Obama in 2009, helped people like her more effectively challenge unequal pay. However, pay secrecy policies still stand in the way of the fundamental principle of equal pay for equal work. If one of Lilly Ledbetter’s co-workers had simply been able to tell her about the discrimination that was taking place, she would have been better able to act in time to exercise her workplace rights. Indeed, the ability of workers to share information and effectively organize for their rights is a cornerstone of building an economy that works for everyone. Promoting pay transparency by prohibiting pay secrecy policies helps make the federal contractor workforce more efficient. Pay transparency helps level the playing field for women and people of color, and provides employers access to a diverse pool of qualified talent.

We know that Lilly Ledbetter’s case was not unique. Despite the existence of laws protecting workers from gender-based compensation discrimination for more than five decades, a pay gap between men and women persists today. Assuming that she works every year between ages 25 and 65, the typical woman will have lost $420,000 over her working lifetime because of the earnings gap, based on median annual earnings for full-time, year-round workers at age 25 and above in 2013. In addition to a wage gap between men and women, the research reveals a wage gap amongst various racial groups. At the beginning of 2015, median weekly earnings for African-American men working at full-time jobs totaled $680 per week – only 76 percent of the median for white men, who earned $897 per week. The median weekly earnings for African-American women equaled $611 per week, or 68 percent of the median for white men. When employees and applicants are prohibited from inquiring about, disclosing, or discussing their compensation with other workers, compensation discrimination is much more difficult to discover and remediate, and more likely to persist.

That is why, in 2014, President Obama issued Executive Order 13665, promoting pay transparency and openness, making it possible for workers and job applicants to share information about their pay and compensation without fear of discrimination. On September 11, 2015, the Department of Labor issued a Final Rule implementing that order. This Final Rule takes effect on January 11, 2016, 120 days after its publication in the Federal Register, and amends the existing regulations that implement EO 11246.

The Final Rule amends the EO 11246 implementing regulations by:

Requiring that certain information be included in covered federal contracts and subcontracts. The Final Rule requires that the equal opportunity clause included in covered federal contracts and subcontracts be amended to include that federal contractors and subcontractors must refrain from discharging, or otherwise discriminating against, employees or applicants who inquire about, discuss, or disclose their compensation or the compensation of other employees or applicants. An exception exists where the employee or applicant makes the disclosure based on information obtained in the course of performing his or her essential job functions;

Requiring that federal contractors incorporate a prescribed nondiscrimination provision into their existing employee manuals or handbooks and disseminate the nondiscrimination provision to employees and to job applicants;

Defining key terms such as compensation, compensation information, and essential job functions as used in EO 11246, as amended; and
Providing employers with two defenses to an allegation of discrimination: a general defense, which could be based on the enforcement of a “workplace rule” that does not prohibit the discussion of compensation information; and an essential job functions defense.

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

EEOC Issues Fiscal Year 2015 Performance Report (Nov. 2015)

Sunday, November 29th, 2015

WASHINGTON- The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) achieved record results in its enforcement efforts during fiscal year 2015, which ended Sept. 30, the agency reported in its annual Performance and Accountability Report published today.

“In this 50th anniversary year of the Commission, we recognize the progress we have made and the challenges we have ahead,” said EEOC Chair Jenny R. Yang. “This is a pivotal moment to renew our national commitment to combating discrimination. There is a growing awareness-across racial and ethnic lines-that we must do more as a country to address issues of equality. As we look ahead to the challenges that remain, our country must continue to invest the resources necessary to fulfill the promise of equal employment opportunity.”

Significant agency accomplishments in fiscal year 2015 include the following.

EEOC secured more than $525 million for victims of discrimination in private, state and local government, and federal workplaces. This included $356.6 million for victims of employment discrimination in private sector and state and local government workplaces through mediation, conciliation, and settlements; $65.3 million for charging parties through litigation; and $105.7 million for federal employees and applicants. Importantly, in each of these categories, the agency obtained substantial changes to discriminatory practices to remedy violations of equal employment opportunity laws and prevent future discriminatory conduct in the workplace.

Systemic cases address patterns or practices of discrimination or policies that have a broad impact on a region, industry, or a group of employees or job applicants. In fiscal year 2015, EEOC resolved 268 systemic investigations before filing litigation, obtaining more than $33.5 million in remedies. In litigation, EEOC resolved 26 systemic cases, six of which included at least 50 victims of discrimination and 13 that included at least 20 victims.

The agency’s outreach programs reached 336,855 people during the year through participation in 3,700 no-cost educational, training and outreach events. EEOC’s national Training Institute trained over 12,000 individuals at more than 140 events that focused on the agency’s Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP) priorities, including small businesses, vulnerable workers, underserved geographic areas and communities, and emphasized new statutory responsibilities, issues related to migrant workers, human trafficking and youth.

EEOC achieved record success in its conciliation of private-sector charges, with 44 percent of conciliations successfully resolved and 64 percent of systemic investigations resulting in voluntary resolutions. These achievements helped EEOC better managed its charge workload, leading to a 6 percent increase in charge resolutions, even as workers filed more charges of discrimination compared to fiscal year 2014. EEOC resolved 92,641charges and received 89,385 charges in fiscal year 2015.

EEOC filed 142 lawsuits alleging discrimination during fiscal year 2015. This included 100 individual suits and 42 suits involving multiple victims or discriminatory policies (versus discriminatory treatment), of which 16 were systemic suits. Legal staff resolved 155 lawsuits alleging discrimination. At the end of the fiscal year, EEOC had 218 cases on its active docket, of which 48 (22 percent) involved challenges to systemic discrimination and 40 (18 percent) were multiple-victim cases.

In our federal sector program, the agency resolved 6,360 hearings complaints and secured more than $94.9 million in relief for federal employees. EEOC also resolved 3,850 appeals of agency decisions on federal sector complaints, including 42.4 percent of them within 180 days of receipt, and secured more than $10.7 million in relief.

In fiscal year 2015, EEOC continued to implement its Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years 2012-2016, which the Office of Management and Budget authorized the Commission to extend through fiscal year 2018, and the related SEP.

EEOC’s fiscal year 2015 Performance and Accountability Report is posted on the agency’s web site at http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/plan/upload/2015par.pdf (pdf version). Comprehensive enforcement and litigation statistics for fiscal year 2015 will be available on the agency’s website in the near future.

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

Justice Department Settles Immigration-Related Discrimination Claim Against Sunny Grove Landscaping & Nursery Inc. (Nov. 2015)

Sunday, November 29th, 2015

The Justice Department reached an agreement today with Sunny Grove Landscaping & Nursery Inc. (Sunny Grove), a landscaping company in Ft. Myers, Florida. The settlement resolves the department’s investigation of Sunny Grove for discrimination against work-authorized non-U.S. citizens in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

Under the settlement agreement, Sunny Grove will pay $7,500 in civil penalties to the United States and undergo department-provided training on the anti-discrimination provision of the INA. Sunny Grove will be subject to departmental monitoring and reporting requirements.

“The Civil Rights Division is committed to protecting work-authorized individuals from discriminatory practices in the employment eligibility verification process,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Civil Rights Division. “We commend Sunny Grove for working cooperatively with the division to resolve this matter.”

The investigation found that Sunny Grove discriminated against lawful permanent residents by requiring them to produce permanent resident cards to prove their work authorization, whereas U.S. citizens were permitted to choose whatever valid documentation they wanted to prove their work authorization. Lawful permanent residents do not have to show their permanent resident cards when they start working. Like all workers, they can choose whatever valid documentation they want to establish their employment authorization, and many lawful permanent residents have the same work authorization documents as U.S. citizens.

The Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices (OSC) is responsible for enforcing the anti-discrimination provision of the INA. The statute prohibits, among other things, citizenship status and national origin discrimination in hiring, firing or recruitment or referral for a fee; document abuse; retaliation; and intimidation.

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 status, immigration status or national origin; or discrimination based on their citizenship status, immigration status or national origin in hiring, firing, or recruitment or referral, should contact OSC’s worker hotline for assistance.

US Labor Department proposes rule to help employers, sponsors grow, diversify their apprenticeship programs (Nov. 2015)

Sunday, November 29th, 2015

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration today announced a proposed rule to update existing Equal Employment Opportunity regulations for Registered Apprenticeship programs. The proposed rule would serve to ensure equal opportunity for all Americans to take part in these apprenticeship programs regardless of race, sex, color, national origin, disability, age, genetic information, or sexual orientation.

“Since President Obama’s 2014 State of the Union address, when he challenged employers and educators to double the number of apprenticeships by 2019, the U.S. has had the largest growth in apprenticeships in nearly a decade,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez. “As we continue to make substantial progress in expanding apprenticeships in America, we also need to make sure that those opportunities are available to women, communities of color, those with disabilities, and other underserved populations who have struggled to navigate or access this critical onramp to the skills superhighway.”

Apprenticeships provide a clear career path forward through new skills, higher wages and opportunities for advancement. Across the nation and all industries, apprentices who complete their programs earn an average starting yearly salary of more than $50,000, and during their careers, they will earn $300,000 more, on average, than their non-apprentice peers.

At the same time, apprenticeship is a proven strategy for recruiting, training, and retaining a highly skilled and diverse workforce. International studies show that for every $1 invested in apprenticeship, employers get $1.47 back in benefits. In addition, 97 percent of businesses with apprenticeship programs would recommend apprenticeship to other companies.

Modernizing and streamlining the rules — which have not been updated since 1978 — will make it easier for employers and program sponsors to effectively grow and diversify their apprenticeship programs.

The proposed rule would improve on existing regulations by:

Extending protections against discrimination to include a broader swath of America’s workforce, including protections based on disability, age (40 or older), sexual orientation, and genetic information

Simplifying and clarifying the affirmative steps employers and sponsors must take to ensure equal opportunity in apprenticeship

Providing new apprenticeship programs with more time to develop initial affirmative action programs, as well as providing all apprenticeship programs that meet their responsibilities under the rule with additional flexibility in how often they must update their plans

Simplifying and clearly defining the process for analyzing the talent available in the labor market to establish clear and achievable goals for diversity in apprenticeship

Clarifying the outreach, recruitment, and retention activities expected of employers by specifying four specific and common-sense required activities, such as advertising openings and partnering with educational institutions to recruit diverse talent

Creating a more flexible framework for the Office of Apprenticeship and States to provide technical assistance and work with apprenticeship programs that are not meeting their affirmative action responsibilities to bring them back into compliance

The public will have until Jan. 5, 2016, to provide comments on the proposed rule. Comments can be submitted electronically at http://www.regulations.gov. Additional information about the proposed rule is available at www.doleta.gov/oa/eeo.

The “Basis” of a Discrimination Complaint: What It Is and Why It’s Important by Seena Foster

Saturday, November 28th, 2015

A discrimination complaint is filed when someone feels that s/he has been unfairly or unjustly treated as compared to someone else. Sometimes, the person believes that a process or criteria has been inefficiently or inconsistently applied to him or her as compared to another person.

There may be any number of reasons for the alleged differing treatment, yet only certain reasons are prohibited by law. The reason for alleged differing treatment constitutes the complaint’s “basis” or, in the case of multiple reasons, the “bases” of discrimination.

Why is the “basis” of a discrimination complaint important to the Equal Opportunity (EO) professional? It is one of the critical factors used in determining whether a violation of applicable civil rights laws has been alleged. While it is true that any form of discriminatory conduct or preferential treatment is offensive and unfair, not all conduct is illegal.

Federally-funded programs and activities

Prohibited bases of discrimination in federally-funded programs and activities are established by statute. For example, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 provides that race, color, and national origin are illegal bases of discrimination. Disability is another prohibited basis of discrimination pursuant to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008. The Age Discrimination Act of 1975 prohibits discrimination on the basis of age—any age.

While the foregoing statutes set forth prohibited bases of discrimination across the board in federally-funded programs and activities, there are certain statutes delineating additional prohibited bases of discrimination, which are applicable to specific types of programs and activities. For instance, Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 (Title IX) prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex or gender in federally-funded educational programs and activities. And, one of the most expansive civil rights laws applies to certain workforce development programs and activities. Notably, Section 188 of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) of 2014 prohibits discrimination on the previously-mentioned bases of race, color, national origin, age, disability, and gender. And, it contains the following additional prohibited bases of discrimination: religion, political affiliation or belief, citizenship, and WIOA-participant status.

To illustrate the concept of “basis” and its importance, we’ll look at a couple of examples. First, let’s assume that Michelle wants to enroll in a GED program at a nearby public college, which receives WIOA-related funding from the U.S. Department of Labor as well as financial assistance from the U.S. Department of Education. The admissions officer of the college does not permit Michelle to complete the enrollment form because Michelle has been pregnant five times in the past seven years. Michelle files a complaint. Here, Michelle has filed a complaint alleging gender-based discrimination; that is, Michelle alleges that she is subjected to discrimination (not allowed to enroll) because of her history of pregnancies and, since pregnancy is unique to women, this is an allegation of gender-based discrimination. Because the college operates its programs and activities using federal dollars, the delivery of these educational programs and activities is governed by Title IX, which prohibits gender-based discrimination. And, gender-based discrimination at this college also is prohibited under WIOA Section 188. So, Michelle’s complaint alleges illegal discrimination.

Now, let’s turn to Joe, who alleges that he is being denied on-the-job-training through a WIOA-funded American Job Network center because he is homeless. If we look at the prohibited “bases” of discrimination under WIOA Section 188, we see that “homelessness” is not listed. Undoubtedly, discrimination against a person because s/he is homeless is offensive and unfair, but the WIOA EO professional does not have authority to investigate Joe’s complaint under WIOA Section 188 because his complaint does not allege a “basis” of discrimination prohibited by those laws.

If you are an EO professional for your agency, organization, or company, you must know the civil rights laws that apply to your federally-funded programs and activities. Review these laws to determine the prohibited “bases” of discrimination in the delivery of your programs and activities. If you receive a discrimination complaint, you will need to ensure that the alleged basis of discrimination is prohibited by one or more civil rights laws governing your programs and activities before you consider accepting the complaint for investigation.

In the workplace

If you are an EEO/AA/HR professional in the workplace, you also will need to know the federal, state, and local civil rights laws applicable to workplace discrimination. As with laws governing federally-funded programs and activities, civil rights laws governing the workplace will delineate certain prohibited “bases” of discrimination. These workplace “bases” include age (40 years of age and over), disability, equal compensation, genetic information, national origin, sex (including pregnancy and sexual harassment), race, color, and religion.

As an example, 46-year-old Mario alleges he was transferred to a less desirable office location and, recently, he has been excluded from monthly management meetings as compared to a 28-year-old colleague who continues to attend the meetings and occupies a highly, sought-after office location in the company. Here, Mario has filed an age-based discrimination complaint, and you would have authority to investigate that complaint under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.

On the other hand, Joan files a discrimination complaint alleging that her supervisor does not like her and gave her a poor performance review because she is vocal in her disagreement with the supervisor’s policies. This complaint does not allege any “basis” of discrimination prohibited by federal or state civil rights laws. Notably, “personality conflicts,” “policy differences,” or “disagreements” are not among the prohibited bases of discrimination in the workplace. As a result, you would not have authority to investigate Joan’s complaint.

Conclusion

As an EO professional, it will save you time to make a list of the prohibited “bases” of discrimination under the civil rights laws applicable to your federally-funded programs and activities. For the EEO/AA/HR professional, you’ll need to have a clear understanding of the civil rights laws applicable to your employment practices. This knowledge, in turn, will help you quickly assess whether a complaint alleges illegal discrimination. For complaints that allege discrimination on a prohibited basis, you must ensure all other jurisdictional requirements are met prior to accepting the complaint for investigation. For complaints that do not allege discrimination on a prohibited basis, you do not have jurisdiction to investigate the complaint under federal civil rights laws, but you may determine that issues raised in the complaint may be addressed informally (such as by taking steps to address customer service issues in the delivery of federally-funded programs and activities), or through the non-discrimination grievance process in place at your agency, organization, or company for workplace-related complaints.

About Seena Foster

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

US Labor Department recovers more than $1.8 million for employees and job applicants at G&K Services Systemic hiring, pay discrimination found at laundry facilities across the country (Nov. 2015)

Saturday, November 21st, 2015

SAN FRANCISCO – The U.S. Department of Labor has reached a settlement with nine facilities of G&K Services, Inc., to remedy systemic hiring and pay discrimination violations identified in compliance evaluations initiated between 2011 and 2015. G&K Services has several federal contracts, which requires the company to adhere to nondiscrimination and affirmative action provisions under Executive Order 11246.

A compliance review by the department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs found that G&K discriminated against 444 female employees in laborer positions by disproportionately assigning them to lower paying job duties while filling the higher paying job duties predominantly with men, even though female employees were qualified for and able to perform the higher paying jobs.

“When you accept taxpayer dollars, you are held to the highest employment standards,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez. “Workers should be judged on their skills and qualifications, not on their gender or any other arbitrary measure. We will not tolerate employment discrimination by companies that do business with the federal government.”

OFCCP determined that this practice of steering women into the lower paying “light duty” jobs led to unlawful sex-based pay discrimination at G&K facilities in Denver; Sacramento, California; Graham and Charlotte, North Carolina; Pleasant Hill, Iowa; Justice, Illinois; St. Paul, Minnesota; and Houston and Coppell, Texas. This practice also resulted in a lower hiring rate for 2,327 male applicants who were equally or more qualified for general laborer positions at the Sacramento, Pleasant Hill, Justice, St. Paul and Coppell locations.

OFCCP also found that G&K failed to provide equal opportunity to 456 African American and 111 Caucasian applicants at its Houston and Charlotte locations when hiring for general laborer positions.

“This settlement demonstrates how the U.S. Labor Department can uncover patterns of workplace discrimination by federal contractors that transcend a single location, which may affect a large number of workers,” said Patricia Shiu, Director of OFCCP. “G&K has agreed to fully cooperate to remedy past violations and ensure its selection and placement practices at these facilities are in full compliance with the law going forward. Together, we can achieve the common goal of equal employment opportunities and nondiscrimination in pay for all employees and applicants.”

Under the terms of the agreement, G&K, while denying liability, has agreed to pay a total of $1,813,555 to members of the affected classes in the conciliation agreement. The contractor has also agreed to extend 78 job opportunities to the male, black and white applicants who were not hired, and 58 opportunities for the female employees to move into higher paying positions.

The agreement also requires G&K to undertake a detailed assessment of its hiring, placement and compensation practices, and its job postings and other documents to ensure they provide equal opportunity and do not discriminate on the basis of sex or race. G&K will be required to conduct regular adverse impact and compensation analyses at the locations where OFCCP found violations, and will report regularly to the agency during the monitoring period on its fulfillment of these obligations.

G&K Services, Inc. provides branded uniform and facility services products including traction control products, towel products, microfiber, wet mops, fender covers, linen items and restroom hygiene products.

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 make it illegal for contractors and subcontractors doing business with the federal government to 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. If you think you may be one of the workers eligible for back pay or job opportunities from this settlement, or may know someone who is, please visit the OFCCP Class Member Locator at http://www.dol.gov/ofccp/cml, where you can also find information about other OFCCP settlements.

Media Contacts:

Leo Kay, 415-625-2630, kay.leo.f@dol.gov

Jose A. Carnevali, 415-625-2631, carnevali.jose@dol.gov

Office of Disability Employment Policy: Business Sense (Nov. 16, 2015)

Monday, November 16th, 2015

‘Tis the Season to be… Courteous

With December right around the corner, many small businesses, especially those in the hospitality and retail sectors, are gearing up for their busiest season of the year, with some even hiring additional staff to handle the holiday rush. As such, it’s a perfect time of year for employees to brush up on their customer service skills.

One area where employees may benefit from additional training is serving customers with disabilities. While the norms for being courteous and respectful to people with disabilities are generally the same as those for being courteous and respectful to all people, a basic understanding of disability etiquette can go a long way toward ensuring a positive experience for customers with disabilities and their friends and family members.

Now, a new resource makes it easy to ensure employees understand the basics. “At Your Service” is a 20-minute video providing tips and recommendations to engage, connect and interact with customers with disabilities in a variety of service settings. Free of charge, it offers a simple way to incorporate disability etiquette into employee orientation or training programs.

“At Your Service” was developed by the Mid-Atlantic ADA Center, which is part of the ADA National Network funded through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research. Businesses of all sizes are encouraged to contact their regional ADA Center for additional guidance on how to best serve customers with disabilities—during the holidays, or anytime of the year.

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

Office of Disability Employment Policy Newsletter (Nov. 13, 2015)

Saturday, November 14th, 2015

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

Jewish Federations of North America Hosts Deputy Assistant Secretary Sheehy

Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy Jennifer Sheehy addressed the Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly on November 12 in Washington, DC, speaking on a panel to an audience of more than 3,000 professionals and philanthropists. Sheehy discussed the importance of disability inclusion from not only a programming but also employment perspective, emphasizing how individual federations’ efforts to increase workplace inclusion internally can have a strong effect on other organizations.

Invitation to Participate in Online Dialogue on Disability Inclusion & Section 503

Now through November 23, members of the public are invited to participate in a national online dialogue, “Advancing the Conversation on Disability Inclusion: Strategies for Achieving the Goals of Section 503.” Hosted by the US Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) and its Employer Technical Assistance Center, the event — akin to a virtual, nationwide brainstorming session — is designed to gather insight into successful strategies federal contractors are using to achieve their goals under the new Section 503 rules. Information gathered through the dialogue will be used to further develop and enhance technical assistance materials to help more covered employers foster a disability-inclusive workplace culture.

“Ban the Box”: Good for People with Disabilities

In a November 9 post on the US Department of Labor’s blog site, Day Al-Mohamed, senior policy advisor in the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), discussed the “Ban the Box” campaign and its effect on people with disabilities. “Ban the Box” aims to persuade employers to remove the question “Have you been convicted?” from job applications and delay that inquiry until the final stages of the hiring process. This month, President Obama took an historic step by directing the Office of Personnel Management to take action to ban the box in federal employment. In her blog, Al-Mohamed highlighted a program in California that, as part of ODEP’s Add Us In initiative, has spent the last five years focusing on providing employment services to difficult-to-place candidates with disabilities. That includes those who have a history of addiction and other mental health disorders, which are so often intertwined with homelessness and incarceration. Noted Al-Mohamed, “Given that many individuals with criminal records also have mental health disorders, banning the box has an important ancillary effect: it can also be a key strategy in helping to raise the employment rate — and thus economic self-sufficiency — of people with disabilities.”

Beyond NDEAM: Year-Round Employer Strategies for Advancing Disability Inclusion

Although National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), celebrated in October, has ended for 2015, there are many ways to highlight the importance of recruiting, hiring, and retaining people with disabilities in the workforce year-round. ODEP has compiled a list of ten ways to foster the NDEAM spirit throughout the year.

American Chemical Society Presents “Science and the Congress Project” Briefing

Since 1995, the American Chemical Society (ACS) has operated the “Science & the Congress Project” to educate and inform Members of Congress and their staffs on the importance of science and technology to solving national challenges. The Science & the Congress Project has conducted well over 100 congressional briefings on important and timely policy topics, relying on panels of knowledgeable and diverse experts to provide comprehensive, balanced presentations about chosen topics, and to increase the level of scientific and technological literacy on Capitol Hill. On November 18, 12:00-1:30 PM EST, at the Russell Senate Office Building, ACS will present “Americans with Disabilities: Growing the Workforce” to discuss the importance of hiring people with disabilities in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and healthcare fields.

Social Security Administration Issues RFP for Early Intervention Mental Health Demonstration Study

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) seeking a contractor to implement and evaluate an Early Intervention Mental Health Demonstration Study (EIMHDS). Responses are due by December 7, 2015 at 11:00 AM EST.

Justice Department Sues Lakewood, Colorado, Apartment Complex for Discriminating Against Families with Children (Nov. 9, 2015)

Friday, November 13th, 2015

The Justice Department filed a lawsuit today against the owners and manager of the Westland Apartments (Westland), a 28-unit apartment complex in Lakewood, Colorado, alleging that they have discriminated against families with children in violation of the Fair Housing Act.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado in Denver, alleges that the defendants have implemented a policy of generally not allowing families with children to live in the front building at Westland, and generally restricting them to apartments in the rear building instead. The suit was filed against Roger and Eileen Loecher, who own Westland, and Miriam Yehudah, the resident property manager.

“Apartment owners cannot limit where children live in their apartment complexes,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Civil Rights Division. “If an apartment is within their budget and meets their needs, the family, not the landlord, should be able to decide whether it is appropriate for them.”

“The Fair Housing Act ensures that all Americans have equal access to housing, a basic human need,” said U.S. Attorney John F. Walsh of the District of Colorado. “This case involved a shocking and direct violation. The complaint filed in federal district court demonstrates that the U.S. Attorney’s Office, working with our partners at the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, will not allow those who rent properties to discriminate against families with children.”

The lawsuit arose from a complaint filed with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) by the Denver Metro Fair Housing Center, a non-profit organization that works to promote equal housing opportunities in the Denver metropolitan area. The center sent testers posing as prospective renters to Westland to determine whether they were complying with the Fair Housing Act. The center’s testing revealed that Westland’s property manager told prospective renters that families with children were generally placed in apartments in the rear building, and did not offer prospective renters with children the opportunity to consider available apartments in the front building. After investigating the complaint, HUD determined that Westland was violating the Fair Housing Act and issued a charge of discrimination. After one of the parties chose to have the charge litigated in federal court, the matter was referred to the Justice Department.

“Families looking for a safe place to call home shouldn’t have that housing limited to certain units of a complex,” said HUD Assistant Secretary Gustavo Velasquez of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “That kind of steering is not only unfair – it is against the law. HUD will continue to work with the Justice Department to take action when the rental policies of housing providers violate the rights of families with children.”

The suit seeks monetary damages for the Fair Housing Center and other persons who were harmed by the defendants’ conduct, civil penalties and a court order barring future discrimination and requiring additional preventive measures.

The complaint is an allegation of unlawful conduct. The allegations must still be proven in federal court.

Individuals who believe they may have been discriminated against at Westland because they have children, or who may have other information about this lawsuit should contact the Justice Department toll-free at 1-800-896-7743, mailbox 92, or e-mail the Justice Department at fairhousing@usdoj.govEmail links icon. Westland is located at 9905 West 21st Avenue in Lakewood.

The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin and disability. 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 elsewhere can contact the Justice Department at 1-800-896-7743, e-mail 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 (Nov. 6, 2015)

Saturday, November 7th, 2015

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

Affordable Health Insurance Coverage for You and Your Dreams

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DOL Issues NPRM on Equal Employment Opportunity Regulations in Apprenticeship

The US Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration (ETA) administers registered apprenticeships under the National Apprenticeship Act of 1937. The existing equal employment opportunity (EEO) regulations for apprenticeships have not been updated since 1978. Updating, modernizing, and streamlining the rules will not only help employers to attract a large and more diverse applicant pool, but will also make it easier for sponsors to comply with the rules and will bring the rule in accord with the current landscape of civil rights statutes and developing case law. The existing regulations do not include nondiscrimination and affirmative action requirements on the basis of disability. The proposed rule would add disability to the bases protected by the nondiscrimination requirement. It would also add disability as an element of sponsors’ affirmative action programs. Rather than each program conducting an availability analysis specific to its labor market, the proposal would establish a single, national goal that 7 percent of programs’ apprentices be individuals with disabilities. A Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) has been issued to solicit public comments on the proposed regulations.

ODEP Forms Alliance with Families and Work Institute

In an effort to promote inclusive workplaces that welcome the skills and talents of workers with disabilities, the US Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) has signed an alliance agreement with the Families and Work Institute (FWI), a New York-based non-profit that conducts research to inform innovative solutions to the challenges facing today’s workplaces, families, and communities. The new alliance builds on ODEP’s past work with FWI, which included informing the development of the 2014 National Study of Employers, a joint effort between FWI and the Society for Human Resource Management as part of their “When Work Works” initiative. Together, ODEP and FWI worked to add questions to the study about workplace flexibility around job task, a proven strategy for increasing the employment of people with disabilities.

PEAT Publishes New Report on eRecruiting and Accessibility

ODEP’s Partnership on Employment & Accessible Technology (PEAT) has published a new report on its national survey on user experiences related to the accessibility of online job applications and other e-recruiting tools: “eRecruiting and Accessibility: Is HR Technology Hurting Your Bottom Line?” With most of today’s employers using some form of web recruiting to evaluate and hire job applicants, it’s more important than ever for organizations to understand why accessibility matters in the recruiting and hiring phases of the employment lifecycle.

NCWD/Youth Releases Career Development Guide for States

NCWD/Youth has released the “Designing Statewide Career Development Strategies and Programs” guide to support states in their efforts to increase college and career readiness among all youth, including youth with disabilities. Statewide implementation of quality comprehensive career development programs and activities is a promising strategy that states can use to achieve the dual goals of college and career readiness for all high school students. This guide provides a primer to quality youth career development systems and an implementation guide including resources, promising practices, and challenges encountered by states that have implemented career development programming in their schools.

The Impact of Employment on the Health Status and Health Care Costs of Working-age People with Disabilities

The Office of Disability Employment Policy’s LEAD Center has released a policy brief titled “The Impact of Employment on the Health Status and Health Care Costs of Working-age People with Disabilities.” This policy brief concludes that employment seems to have a protective impact on health and thus establishes that an added benefit of investing in the employment of people with disabilities – beyond the impact on their income and the possible savings from various social protection programs – would be to lower public expenditures on health care.

Women’s Bureau and Small Business Administration Release Issue Briefs on Workplace Flexibility

The US Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau (WB), in collaboration with the Small Business Administration (SBA), has published two Issue Briefs on the subject of workplace flexibility. The “Workplace Flexibility Issue Brief” outlines the business case in supporting flexible workplace policies and highlights workplace flexibility options for small business owners to implement; the “Workplace Flexibility Initiatives Issue Brief” lists the range of workplace flexibility options for small business owners to implement.

Social Security Administration Extends Public Comment Period Regarding Adult Disability Determination Process

The Social Security Administration (SSA) published a September 14 advance notice of proposed rulemaking in the Federal Register regarding Vocational Factors of Age, Education, and Work Experience in the Adult Disability Determination Process, and solicited public comments. SSA provided a 60-day comment period ending on November 13, 2015. SSA has extended the comment period to December 14, 2015, noting “the extension of the comment date accommodates and facilitates public comments we expect in response to the National Disability Forum we are sponsoring on Friday, November 20, 2015. During the forum, we are hosting a moderator-led discussion entitled: The Realities of Work for Individuals with Disabilities: Impact of Age, Education, and Work Experience.”