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Archive for November, 2016

Information Regarding Updated EEO Circular for FTA Grantees (Nov. 23, 2016)

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2016

FTA’s updated Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Circular 4704.1A went into effect October 31, 2016. If you are responsible for implementing EEO requirements, please review the Civil Rights Office’s new Letter to Grantees summarizing changes to the EEO program threshold requirements and submission cycles to FTA.

Importantly, please note that we ask each FTA grantee to complete an EEO Program Submission Questionnaire by December 15, 2016. This will help FTA determine which agencies are required to submit EEO programs in the future and to establish a new EEO program submission schedule.

For more information, go to https://www.transit.dot.gov/sites/fta.dot.gov/files/docs/Letter%20to%20Grantees%20Updated%20EEO%20Circular%20and%20Certification%20Questionnaire%20Information.pdf.

EEOC Efforts for Veterans with Disabilities (Nov. 2016)

Monday, November 21st, 2016

“As we approach Veterans Day, EEOC is redoubling its efforts to ensure that veterans enjoy the bedrock American value of equality of opportunity that they have defended,” said EEOC Chair Jenny R. Yang. “We must continue to strive for an America where all of us, including veterans with disabilities, have an opportunity to contribute their talents in the workplace, support their families, and help bolster the economy.”

Caring for our veterans returning from service is not only an expression of gratitude but a moral obligation. This includes a responsibility to ensure that veterans have opportunities to participate in the workforce and realize their dreams. And it clears the way for every one of us to contribute to our nation’s economic engine and social fabric. We all benefit when people who want to work are able to participate in the economy.

Our veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001 – often after lengthy deployments — have suffered from higher unemployment than other veterans and civilians. These veterans also may face discrimination because of mental or physical disabilities. In some cases, veterans face employment policies and practices that rely on myths and stereotypes about individuals with disabilities – such as concerns about employing workers with PTSD – that can prevent veterans from earning a living. In other cases, veterans with disabilities may be unaware of the workplace right to request a reasonable accommodation to allow them to perform jobs for which they are qualified. In any case, unemployment, job loss, or career limitations can lead to financial difficulties that negatively impact the veterans themselves, their families and our society.

Unfortunately, disability discrimination continues to occur far too often. Charges filed with the EEOC alleging disability discrimination have remained persistently high – almost a third of all charges filed with EEOC include an allegation of disability discrimination. In fiscal year 2016 disability discrimination claims comprised approximately 40 percent of EEOC’s discrimination lawsuits.

We have strong laws, like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), to knock down barriers to opportunity facing veterans, but we need targeted outreach to ensure veterans know their rights under the ADA and how to seek enforcement. We also need effective outreach resources to help employers understand how the ADA applies to veterans with disabilities. That’s why EEOC is expanding employment opportunities for those who served our country by vigorously enforcing the law and increasing outreach to employers and veterans communities, thereby reducing barriers that prevent veterans from fulfilling their potential. Through private sector enforcement and litigation, policy and outreach work, and efforts in the federal sector, EEOC employees provide important services for veterans with disabilities to ensure that their rights to equal employment opportunity are upheld.

These resource documents – one for veterans and one for employers – help explain rights and responsibilities for veterans with disabilities in the workplace:

· Understanding Your Employment Rights Under the Americans with Disabilities Act: A Guide for Veterans answers questions that veterans with disabilities may have about workplace protections that apply when they seek to return to their former jobs or look for civilian jobs.

· Veterans and the Americans with Disabilities Act: A Guide for Employers explains how protections for veterans with disabilities differ under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), and how employers can prevent disability-based discrimination and provide reasonable accommodations.

The EEOC also has a responsibility to ensure that the federal government is a “model employer” for individuals with disabilities, which includes veterans with disabilities. The following resources about the hiring of individuals with disabilities into the federal government may help veterans with disabilities seeking federal jobs:

· The ABCs of Schedule A details the federal government authority to non-competitively hire individuals with disabilities into federal jobs, complete with separate tips for hiring managers, HR professionals, disability program managers, service providers, and applicants with disabilities.

· Tips for Applicants with Disabilities Applying for Federal Jobs was created by the 10-agency Curbcuts to the Middle Class Initiative to provide helpful information about searching for vacancies, the federal government’s application process, and the rights of applicants with disabilities.

· Q&A: Promoting Employment of Individuals with Disabilities in the Federal Workforce explains how the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires equal employment opportunity for individuals with disabilities in the federal government.

Additionally, EEOC has designated staff in offices across the country to assist veterans who may be facing discrimination because of a disability. To reach the appropriate EEOC staff for your region for assistance or information, visit our new webpage at www.eeoc.gov/veterans.

For those who wish to file an employment discrimination complaint, EEOC’s website (www.eeoc.gov) has information, including time frames, about filing charges against private business or state and local government or a federal agency.

EEOC wins key ruling in sexual orientation case (Nov. 2016)

Monday, November 21st, 2016

Court Agrees With Federal Agency’s Position That Sexual Orientation Discrimination Is a Form of Sex Discrimination Prohibited by Title VII

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced today that a federal court has denied a motion to dismiss a sex discrimination lawsuit filed by EEOC, ruling that sexual orientation discrimination is a form of sex discrimination prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights of 1964.

On March 1, EEOC filed the U.S. government’s first sex discrimination lawsuit based on sexual orientation, U.S. EEOC v. Scott Medical Health Center (Case 2:16-cv-00225-CB), in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania in Pittsburgh. In its complaint, EEOC charged that a gay male employee was subjected to sex discrimination in the form of harassment because of his sexual orientation and then forced to quit his job rather than endure further harassment. In response to EEOC’s lawsuit, the defendant filed a motion to dismiss the case.

In a decision issued on Nov. 4 by U.S. District Judge Cathy Bissoon, the court denied Scott Medical Health Center’s motion to dismiss EEOC’s case. In its ruling, the court found that sexual orientation discrimination is a type of discrimination “because of sex,” which is barred by Title VII. Applying decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court’s finding that Title VII’s ban on sex discrimination includes adverse treatment of workers based on “sex stereotypes,” i.e. pre-conceived ideas of how a man or a woman should act or think, the federal court stated, “There is no more obvious form of sex stereo­typing than making a determination that a person should conform to heterosexuality.”

The federal court then concluded, “That someone can be subjected to a barrage of insults, humili­ation, hostility and/or changes to the terms and conditions of their employment, based upon nothing more than the aggressor’s view of what it means to be a man or a woman, is exactly the evil Title VII was designed to eradicate.” While the federal court made a legal ruling in the case, to date there has been no trial or factual finding whether discrimination occurred.

The court’s decision is consistent with EEOC’s reading of Title VII’s sex discrimination ban. As the federal law enforcement agency charged with interpreting and enforcing Title VII, EEOC has pre­viously concluded that harassment and other discrimination because of sexual orientation is prohibited sex discrimination. On July 15, 2015, EEOC, in a federal sector decision, determined that sexual orient­ation discrimination is, by its very nature, discrimination because of sex. See Baldwin v. Dep’t of Transp., Appeal No. 0120133080 (July 15, 2015).

In that case, EEOC explained the reasons why Title VII’s prohibition of sex discrimination includes discrimination because of sexual orientation: (1) sexual orientation discrimination necessarily involves treating workers less favorably because of their sex because sexual orientation as a concept cannot be understood without reference to sex; (2) sexual orientation discrimination is rooted in non-compliance with sex stereotypes and gender norms, and employment decisions based in such stereotypes and norms have long been found to be prohibited sex discrimination under Title VII; and (3) sexual orientation discrimination punishes workers because of their close personal association with members of a particular sex, such as marital and other personal relationships.

Addressing emerging and developing issues, especially coverage of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals under Title VII’s sex discrimination provisions, is one of six national priorities identified by EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP).

The Scott Medical Health Center lawsuit was investigated by EEOC’s Pittsburgh Area Office, a component of EEOC Philadelphia District Office, which oversees Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and parts of New Jersey and Ohio.

EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov.

DEPARTMENTS OF JUSTICE AND HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT RELEASE UPDATED FAIR HOUSING ACT GUIDANCE ON STATE AND LOCAL LAND USE LAWS (Nov. 19, 2016)

Saturday, November 19th, 2016

WASHINGTON – The Justice Department and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released updated guidance today on the application of the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA) to state and local land use and zoning laws. The guidance is designed to help state and local governments better understand how to comply with the FHA when making zoning and land use decisions as well as to help members of the public understand their rights under the FHA.

“The Fair Housing Act helps protect open, free and integrated communities,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Government officials, housing providers and the general public need to understand how land use and zoning decisions can create barriers to equal housing opportunity. We hope this guidance will help communities make these decisions free from discrimination.”

“Zoning and land use are inherently local decisions,” said Gustavo Velasquez, Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity for the Department of Housing and Urban Development. “This updated guidance will help give localities and the American people a clearer line of what could constitute housing discrimination under the federal Fair Housing Act. Cities will also have more resources to understand their fair housing rights and responsibilities in the course of making decisions related to various types of housing, including group homes for residents with disabilities.”

The FHA prohibits discrimination in housing based on disability, race, color, religion, national origin, sex and familial status (residing with children under 18). The statute bars state and local governments from enacting or enforcing land use and zoning laws, policies, practices and decisions that discriminate against persons because of a protected characteristic, such as race, national origin or disability. The guidance is an update of previous guidance issued in the Joint Statement of the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Justice on Group Homes, Local Land Use and the Fair Housing Act on Aug. 18, 1999.

The updated guidance, issued in the form of questions and answers, covers:

How does the Fair Housing Act apply to state and local land use and zoning?
When does a land use or zoning practice constitute intentional discrimination in violation of the Fair Housing Act?
Can state and local land use and zoning laws or practices violate the Fair Housing Act if the state or locality did not intend to discriminate against persons on a prohibited basis?
Does a state or local government violate the Fair Housing Act if it considers the fears or prejudices of community members when enacting or applying its land use laws respecting housing?
What is a group home within the meaning of the Fair Housing Act?
In what ways does the Fair Housing Act apply to group homes?
How does the Supreme Court’s ruling in Olmstead v. L.C. apply to the Fair Housing Act?
Can a state or local government impose health and safety regulations on group home operators?
Can a state or local government impose spacing requirements on the location of group homes for persons with disabilities?
When does a state or local government violate the Fair Housing Act by failing to grant a request for a reasonable accommodation?

The guidance is available online at https://www.justice.gov/crt/fair-housing-policy-statements-and-guidance-0. The Justice Department and HUD share responsibility for enforcing the FHA. HUD is the agency with the primary responsibility to investigate individual complaints of discrimination. The Secretary of HUD, on his own initiative, may file complaints alleging discrimination. In addition, the Attorney General may commence a civil action in federal court when she has reasonable cause to believe that person(s) are engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination or that a group of persons has been denied rights protected by the FHA.

More information about the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces is available at https://www.justice.gov/crt. More information about HUD and the civil rights laws it enforces is available at www.hud.gov/fairhousing.

Individuals who believe that they may have been victims of housing discrimination may contact the Justice Department at 1-800-896-7743, or they may email DOJ at fairhousing@usdoj.gov. They may also contact HUD at 1-800-669-9777.

FTA to Offer Transportation Conformity Training December 6-8

Wednesday, November 16th, 2016

FTA and The National Transit Institute (NTI) will offer a training course, Introduction to Transportation Conformity, on December 6-8 at the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning in Chicago, IL. The course will provide basic information about conformity requirements and the relationship between transportation and air quality planning. The course is designed for new staff as well as senior staff unfamiliar with the conformity process who work at Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Federal Transit Administration (FTA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), state departments of transportation, metropolitan planning organizations, state/county/local planning agencies, state and local air quality agencies, transit agencies, and consultant firms. After attending, participants will be able to understand and discuss:

the relationship between transportation planning and air quality planning in the context of transportation conformity,
the link between the transportation planning and project development processes and the State Implementation Plan (SIP),
the roles and responsibilities in interagency coordination, and
techniques to provide opportunities for public participation in the conformity process.

Register for the course or contact Ginny Stern, 848-932-6592, for more information.

Office of Disability Employment Policy: Business $ense (Nov. 14, 2016)

Monday, November 14th, 2016

Understanding Options for Leave When Illness or Injury Occurs

Today, smart employers recognize the value of supporting their employees, especially when illness or injury occurs that might necessitate time off. Now, a new online tool — the Medical- and Disability-Related Leave Advisor — helps clarify leave employees may be entitled to take for purposes of managing medical conditions and disabilities.

By asking a few relevant questions, this advisor quickly identifies which of several federal employment laws — each of which may provide for such leave under certain circumstances — apply to an employer and thus possibly its employees. These laws include the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which provides eligible employees of covered employers up to 12 workweeks of leave in a 12-month period for certain reasons, among them the employee’s own serious health condition, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other disability nondiscrimination laws under which leave may be considered a reasonable accommodation.

Examples of conditions that may make a person qualified for leave under these laws range from cancer, heart disease and diabetes to mental health conditions, arthritis and recovery from surgery. In reality, every worker has a possibility of acquiring a disability, whether temporarily or permanently. By understanding available options for leave, employers can send a clear signal that they care about the health and well-being of their employees. What’s more, they can help ensure employees get the care or rest they need to return to work productively.

The Medical- and Disability-Related Leave Advisor is one of a series of Employment Laws Assistance for Workers and Small Businesses (elaws) Advisors developed by the U.S. Department of Labor to help employers and employees understand their rights and responsibilities under federal employment laws. To view a list of all of them, visit the elaws website.

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

HUD CHARGES HOUSING PROVIDERS IN GEORGIA, LOUISIANA, AND NEW HAMPSHIRE WITH DISCRIMINATING AGAINST FAMILIES WITH CHILDREN (Nov. 2016)

Monday, November 14th, 2016

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced today that it is charging housing providers in Georgia, Louisiana, and New Hampshire with violating the Fair Housing Act by discriminating against families with children.

The Fair Housing Act makes it unlawful to discriminate against families with children, including denying or limiting housing to families because they have children under the age of 18, making discriminatory statements, and imposing rules or policies that discriminate against families with children.

“Families with children have the same rights as any other American,” said Gustavo Velasquez, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “The enforcement actions we are taking today signal HUD’s commitment to ensuring that housing providers meet their obligation to treat all applicants and residents the same.”

Georgia

HUD is charging Peachtree Court Homeowners Association, Inc., with denying a family’s request to have play equipment for their children in their backyard. The family had requested permission to construct a playset but the request was denied. Subsequently, the family attached a slide to the rear deck of the home. When the Association learned about the slide, they sent the family a letter stating that the slide had to be removed. The Board of Directors also levied fines against the family for unauthorized improvements that totaled $2,300 and prevented the family from using some community amenities, including the community pool.

Louisiana

HUD is charging the owner of a three-unit rental property in New Orleans with violating the Fair Housing Act by discriminating against families with children. The case came to HUD’s attention when the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center, a HUD Fair Housing Initiatives Program agency, filed a complaint after seeing a classified ad the owner placed on Craigslist. A fair housing tester posing as a married father with eight-month-old twins sent an email to the owner inquiring about the apartment. After a friend of the owner showed the tester the unit, the owner sent the tester an email allegedly stating, “I’m not sure the combo with the two young babies and the vacation rental next door is the best fit…I have only gotten a few complaints from long-term tenants over the years, but I am concerned that with two young kids you could be complaining more than that and I don’t want to get the wrong tenants in the house.”

New Hampshire

HUD is charging the owner of an apartment in West Keene, New Hampshire, with housing discrimination for allegedly refusing to rent the unit to families with children. The case came to HUD’s attention when a married couple filed a complaint alleging that the owner denied them the opportunity to rent the apartment. The charge alleges that the couple first learned about the unit when they saw an ad for a “huge” apartment in West Keene. The wife contacted the owner to inquire about the unit, but when she told him that she was looking for an apartment for herself, her husband, and her children, the owner allegedly told her that “he was not interested in renting to anyone with children,” and that he “just evicted a family with children because they were too loud.” The charge further alleges that a tester with New Hampshire Legal Assistance, another HUD Fair Housing Initiatives Program agency, also contacted the owner and was told that the previous tenants who were evicted had three “messy” children, and that he would like to rent the apartment to a husband and wife or a single person. The owner ultimately rented the apartment to two women who did not have children.

The charges will be heard by a United States Administrative Law Judge. If an administrative law judge finds after a hearing that discrimination has occurred, damages may be awarded to the complainants.

Any person who believes she or he has experienced discrimination may file a complaint by contacting HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity at (800) 669-9777 (voice) or (800) 927-9275 (TTY). Housing discrimination complaints may also be filed by going to www.hud.gov/fairhousing, or by downloading HUD’s free housing discrimination mobile application, which can be accessed through Apple and Android devices.

For more information on this press release, go to http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/press/press_releases_media_advisories/2016/HUDNo_16-168.

U.S. Department of Justice Weekly Digest Bulletin (Nov. 4, 2016)

Monday, November 7th, 2016

CIVIL RIGHTS DIVISION HIGHLIGHTS

The Justice Department filed a statement of interest in Southwest Key Programs, Inc. v. City of Escondido, a case in the Southern District of California, to address the question of whether the protections of the Fair Housing Act (FHA) extend to group homes for unaccompanied children in the care and custody of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The plaintiff in the case sought to operate such a home in the City of Escondido. The complaint alleges that the city discriminated on the basis of race and national origin when it denied the request for a conditional use permit to operate the group home. Defendant moved for summary judgment, arguing, among other things, that the FHA does not apply. The United States’ statement of interest urges the court to find that the proposed group home is a “dwelling” covered by the Fair Housing Act and is neither a jail nor a detention facility.

Three former supervisory correctional officers at Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, Louisiana, were indicted for beating a handcuffed and shackled inmate, and conspiring to cover up their misconduct by falsifying official records, committing perjury and tampering with witnesses as well as physical evidence.

The Justice Department announced that it has reached a settlement agreement with Louisiana Tech University to ensure that black students have access to the high-quality education programs at the A.E. Phillips Laboratory School, a K-8 public school operated by Louisiana Tech on its campus in Lincoln Parish, Louisiana.

The Justice Department announced that it has opened an investigation into the conditions at the Boyd County Detention Center in Catlettsburg, Kentucky. The investigation will focus on whether prisoners are adequately protected from the use of excessive force, whether prisoners are subject to an invasion of their bodily privacy and whether the jail indiscriminately uses restrictive housing without due process.

A 21-count indictment was unsealed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York charging seven defendants with sex trafficking, conspiracy and related offenses. The indictment, which was returned under seal on Sept. 15, 2016, alleges that the defendants are members of an international sex trafficking organization which operated in Mexico and the United States between 2000 and 2016. Fourteen victims of the charged sex trafficking organization are identified in the indictment.

The Justice Department announced that it has filed a lawsuit against the owners, builder and designer of the Ashlynn Estates in Ellensburg, Washington, alleging that the property was designed and constructed without complying with the Fair Housing Act’s (FHA) accessibility requirements.

U.S. Equal Economic Opportunity Commission Weekly News Digest (Nov. 3, 2016)

Monday, November 7th, 2016

ADVISORY: EEOC POSTS WEBINAR RECORDING ON WELLNESS PROGRAM RULES

Media inquiries: 202-663-4191 or newsroom@eeoc.gov

*****MEDIA ADVISORY*****

EEOC POSTS WEBINAR RECORDING ON WELLNESS PROGRAM RULES

Webinar Offered to Help Employers and Wellness Programs Comply with EEOC Rules

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has posted online a recording of its Oct. 19 webinar about the agency’s 2016 rules on employer wellness programs and federal law, the agency announced today.

On May 17, EEOC issued final rules that describe how Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Title II of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) apply to wellness programs offered by employers that request health information from employees and their family members. The rules allow limited incentives for employees and spouses to participate in such programs, but also include important privacy protections.

EEOC offered a webinar on Oct. 19 to discuss these rules. EEOC attorneys provided information that will help employers and wellness programs comply with the rules, including an overview of both rules and answers to frequently asked questions the Commission has received since the rules were published. Also, a guest speaker from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration discussed the interaction between these EEOC final rules and certain provisions of Title I of GINA and the Affordable Care Act applicable to employment-based group health plan coverage. This webinar is for human resource profes­sionals, benefits attorneys and wellness program vendors.

A recording of the webinar is available at https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/events/webcast-wellness.cfm.

EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.

ADVISORY: EEOC POSTS WEBINAR RECORDING ON NEW EEO-1 REPORT

Media inquiries: 202-663-4191 or newsroom@eeoc.gov

*****MEDIA ADVISORY*****

EEOC POSTS WEBINAR RECORDING ON NEW EEO-1 REPORT

EEOC Highlights New Requirements to Help Employers Transition to the Pay Data Collection

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has posted online a recording of its Oct. 26, 2016 webinar for employers about the new Employer Information Report or EEO-1 at https://www.eeoc.gov/employers/eeo1survey/2017survey-webinar.cfm. This webinar provides an overview of the EEO-1, describes the process of reporting and submitting summary pay and hours worked data, and gives examples of how to enter the data on the new form. A recording of the webinar, the presentation slides, and other resources related to the new EEO-1, including the new form, a Fact Sheet for Small Business, and a questions and answers document are available on EEOC’s 2017 EEO-1 Survey page.

Starting March 2018, the EEO-1 will collect summary pay and hours worked data, in addition to demo­graphic information, from certain employers. The new information will improve investigations of possible pay discrimination, which remains a contributing factor to persistent wage gaps.

EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.