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DEPENDABLE HEALTH SERVICES TO PAY $38,000 TO SETTLE EEOC DISABILITY DISCRIMINATION SUIT (Dec. 2017)

Sunday, December 31st, 2017

Health Care Staffing Agency Fired Employee Following Request for Reasonable Accommodation, Federal Agency Charged

BALTIMORE – Dependable Health Services Inc., a health care staffing agency, will pay $38,000 and furnish significant equitable relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.

According to the suit, Sheena Berry began working as a phlebotomist at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., in March 2016 and continued employment with Dependable Health Services when the company acquired the medical services contract at Walter Reed. Berry requested a reasonable accommodation of not staffing mobile blood drives due to sickle-cell anemia-related pregnancy complications. Dependable Health Services initially refused to provide the accommodation but later did so by temporarily transferring Berry to the out-patient phlebotomy department, EEOC said.

While on maternity leave, Berry provided several status updates to Dependable Health Services. Berry requested a permanent reasonable accommodation reassignment to a position that did not require mobile blood drive staffing. EEOC charged that on February 24, 2017, Berry informed Dependable Health Services of her planned return to work on February 28, 2017. Dependable Health Services abruptly terminated Berry effective February 27, 2017 stating a decision “to have [Berry’s] position back-filled effective immediately.”

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination based on disability. The ADA also requires an employer to provide reasonable accommodations unless the employer can prove it would be an undue hardship. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Dependable Health Services, Inc., Civil Action No. 8:17-cv-02316) in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Greenbelt Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

In addition to the $38,000 in monetary relief, Berry will receive a favorable letter of recommendation. The five-year consent decree resolving the suit enjoins Dependable Health Services from violating the ADA, including refusal to provide reasonable accommodations. The owner of Dependable Health Services will distribute a memorandum to all employees emphasizing a commitment to ADA compliance, along with a copy of the company’s revised reasonable accommodations policy. It will also provide ADA training to all managers, supervisors and human resources employees. Dependable Health Services will also report to the EEOC on how it handles any complaints of disability discrimination and post a notice regarding the settlement.

“We are pleased Dependable Health Services worked with us to resolve this matter amicably,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence. “In addition to the monetary relief to Ms. Berry, this settlement provides substantial equitable measures to protect all employees and applicants from disability discrimination.”

District Director Kevin Berry added, “Firing an employee is never a good response to a reasonable accommodation request. This settlement should encourage all employers to engage in the interactive process to keep qualified individuals with disabilities working, including reassignment to a vacant position if necessary.”

The EEOC’s Baltimore Field Office is one of four offices in the Philadelphia District, which has jurisdiction over Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia and parts of New Jersey and Ohio. Attorneys in the Philadelphia District Office also prosecute discrimination cases in Washington, D.C. and parts of Virginia.

The 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.

Justice Department Settles U.S. Worker Discrimination Claims Against Colorado Agricultural Company (Dec. 2017)

Thursday, December 28th, 2017

The Justice Department announced today that it has reached a settlement agreement with Crop Production Services Inc. (Crop Production), an agricultural company headquartered in Loveland, Colorado.  The settlement resolves a lawsuit the Justice Department filed against the company on Sept. 28, 2017, alleging that the company discriminated against U.S. citizens because of a preference for foreign visa workers, in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

The Department’s lawsuit alleged that in 2016, Crop Production discriminated against at least three United States citizens by refusing to employ them as seasonal technicians at its El Campo, Texas location because the company preferred to employ temporary foreign workers under the H-2A visa program.  According to the Department’s complaint, Crop Production imposed more burdensome requirements on U.S. citizens than it did on H-2A visa workers to discourage U.S. citizens from working at the facility.  For instance, the complaint alleges that although U.S. citizens had to complete a background check and a drug test before being permitted to start work, H-2A visa workers were allowed to begin working without completing them and, in some cases, never completed them.  The complaint also alleged that Crop Production refused to consider a limited-English proficient U.S. citizen for employment yet hired H-2A visa workers with limited-English proficiency.  Ultimately, all of Crop Production’s 15 available seasonal technician jobs in 2016 went to H-2A visa workers instead of U.S. workers.

Under the INA, it is unlawful for employers to intentionally discriminate against U.S. workers because of their citizenship status or to otherwise favor the employment of temporary foreign visa workers over available, qualified U.S. workers.  In addition, the H-2A visa program allows employers to hire foreign visa workers only if there is not a sufficient number of qualified and available U.S. workers to fill the jobs.

The settlement agreement requires Crop Production to pay civil penalties of $10,500.00 to the United States, undergo department-provided training on the anti-discrimination provision of the INA, and comply with departmental monitoring and reporting requirements.  In a separate agreement with workers represented by Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Crop Production agreed to pay $18,738.75 in lost wages to affected U.S. workers.

“There will be zero tolerance for companies that violate the Immigration and Nationality Act by hiring foreign visa holders over U.S. workers,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore of the Civil Rights Division.  “The Division’s Protecting U.S. Workers Initiative is committed to fighting discriminatory hiring practices that prevent qualified U.S. workers from obtaining jobs, and we commend Texas RioGrande Legal Aid for bringing this matter to our attention.”

The settlement is part of the Division’s Protecting U.S. Workers Initiative, an initiative aimed at targeting, investigating, and bringing enforcement actions against companies that discriminate against U.S. workers in favor of foreign visa workers.

The Division’s Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER), formerly known as the Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices, 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; unfair documentary practicesretaliation; and intimidation.

For more information about protections against employment discrimination under immigration laws, call IER’s worker hotline at 1-800-255-7688 (1-800-237-2515, TTY for hearing impaired); call IER’s employer hotline at 1-800-255-8155 (1-800-237-2515, TTY for hearing impaired); sign up for a free webinar; email IER@usdoj.gov; or visit IER’s English and Spanish websites.

 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, should contact IER’s worker hotline for assistance.

Office of Disability Employment Policy News Brief (Dec. 22, 2017)

Friday, December 22nd, 2017

It’s Not Too Late to Participate! Model Employers Online Dialogue Extended to January 12

There is still time to participate in the “Work Matters: Laying the Groundwork for States as Model Employers” online dialogue hosted by ODEP’s State Exchange on Employment and Disability. Now through January 12, join participants from the disability, service provider, and employer community in contributing ideas to help shape disability employment policies within the states. These contributions will be used to educate state legislators on developing inclusive policies and to expand policy options aimed at enhancing employment opportunities for people with disabilities in state government outlined in the Work Matters report.

An Untapped Talent Pool: The Opportunity in Employing People with Disabilities

The National Governors Association’s Rachael Stephens, Senior Policy Analyst with the NGA Center for Best Practices Economic Opportunity Division, wrote a blog post about the many benefits hiring people with disabilities brings state workforces and economies. Stephens highlights NGA’s participation in ODEP’s State Exchange on Employment and Disability, a collaborative of state-level organizations that works to influence legislation targeted at increasing employment for people with disabilities. She also notes the many state governors who observed National Disability Employment Awareness Month by issuing proclamations or taking other actions in their states to support the issue.

Employee Accommodation Inquiry Letter — JAN Consultants’ Corner

In the latest issue of the Job Accommodation Network’s Consultants’ Corner, Melanie Whetzel, Lead Consultant on JAN’s Cognitive/Neurological Team, outlines steps to help employers respond to requests for accommodations quickly and efficiently when medical documentation is required from the employee. This situation occurs when the employee’s disability is not known or obvious to the employer. Whetzel explains the process of documenting the disability and providing accommodation information to ensure that the interaction runs smoothly.

LEAD On! Quarterly Newsletter

The LEAD Center has released its quarterly e-newsletter LEAD On! This publication highlights news and innovations in employment, policy, and economic advancement for people with disabilities. The December 2017 issue features information on LEAD’s Guided Group Discovery Veterans Pilot, the FDIC’s Alliance for Economic Inclusion, the Financial Integration Team Community of Practice from the National Disability Institute, LEAD Center guest bloggers, and more.

PEAT eNews Now Available

The Partnership on Employment & Accessible Technology has published its December eNews. Included in this issue is an announcement of PEAT’s new Future of Work podcast series, a video on PEAT resources to help American Job Centers use accessible technologies, upcoming PEAT Talks, and more.

Four local housing authorities settle discrimination complaints (Dec. 2017)

Monday, December 18th, 2017

The complaints alleged that the housing authorities discriminated against Latino applicants

HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – The Massachusetts Fair Housing Center reports that public housing authorities in Northampton, West Springfield, Greenfield and Westfield have settled complaints in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Federal Fair Housing Act. The complaints were filed with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development in 2016, and were based on a series of fair housing tests showing preferential treatment of English-speaking white applicants when compared to Spanish-speaking Latino applicants.

The complaints alleged that the housing authorities discriminated against Latino applicants by failing to offer applications in Spanish and, in some cases, referring Latino applicants to seek language services from another agency when they needed assistance.

As part of the settlement agreement, the four housing authorities will provide notice of the availability of interpreters; provide applications in Spanish, Chinese, Haitian Creole, Khmer and Portuguese; create or maintain a Language Access Plan that is available to the public at the housing authority and on-line; mandate staff training and the appointment of a Language Access Coordinator.

According to the MFHC, western Massachusetts has the highest rate in the nation of housing segregation between Latinos and white applicants.

Office of Disability Employment Policy: Business $ense (Dec. 2017)

Monday, December 18th, 2017

A Roadmap for Buying Accessible Tech for Your Workplace

It’s an all too frequent scenario—a company builds a website or purchases a new technology application, implements it, pays for it, and then learns that some employees or customers with disabilities cannot use it because it’s inaccessible. Then, they’re faced with making costly retroactive fixes to ensure it’s usable by everyone.

While these kinds of accessibility missteps are typically unintentional, they can easily be avoided. And now, there’s a free online tool to guide businesses in procuring accessible information technology (IT)—Buy IT: Your Guide for Purchasing Accessible Technology.

The tool was recently launched by the Partnership on Employment & Accessible Technology (PEAT), an initiative funded by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy. Featuring background and sample language, Buy IT offers step-by-step guidance on researching IT vendors, specifying accessibility requirements in Requests for Proposals (RFPs), and validating the accessibility of product choices. By helping businesses buy and implement technology that works for everyone, Buy IT reduces technology-related barriers many employees, job seekers and customers with disabilities face, which, by extension, is also good for their bottom line.

Giving your current and prospective workers equal access to technology tools helps employees thrive on the job. Of course, implementing accessible technology means buying it in the first place, and Buy IT can demystify the process.

Justice Department Settles U.S. Worker Discrimination Claims Against Colorado Agricultural Company (Dec. 2017)

Monday, December 18th, 2017

The Justice Department announced today that it has reached a settlement agreement with Crop Production Services Inc. (Crop Production), an agricultural company headquartered in Loveland, Colorado. The settlement resolves a lawsuit the Justice Department filed against the company on Sept. 28, 2017, alleging that the company discriminated against U.S. citizens because of a preference for foreign visa workers, in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

The Department’s lawsuit alleged that in 2016, Crop Production discriminated against at least three United States citizens by refusing to employ them as seasonal technicians at its El Campo, Texas location because the company preferred to employ temporary foreign workers under the H-2A visa program. According to the Department’s complaint, Crop Production imposed more burdensome requirements on U.S. citizens than it did on H-2A visa workers to discourage U.S. citizens from working at the facility. For instance, the complaint alleges that although U.S. citizens had to complete a background check and a drug test before being permitted to start work, H-2A visa workers were allowed to begin working without completing them and, in some cases, never completed them. The complaint also alleged that Crop Production refused to consider a limited-English proficient U.S. citizen for employment yet hired H-2A visa workers with limited-English proficiency. Ultimately, all of Crop Production’s 15 available seasonal technician jobs in 2016 went to H-2A visa workers instead of U.S. workers.

Under the INA, it is unlawful for employers to intentionally discriminate against U.S. workers because of their citizenship status or to otherwise favor the employment of temporary foreign visa workers over available, qualified U.S. workers. In addition, the H-2A visa program allows employers to hire foreign visa workers only if there is not a sufficient number of qualified and available U.S. workers to fill the jobs.

The settlement agreement requires Crop Production to pay civil penalties of $10,500.00 to the United States, undergo department-provided training on the anti-discrimination provision of the INA, and comply with departmental monitoring and reporting requirements. In a separate agreement with workers represented by Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Crop Production agreed to pay $18,738.75 in lost wages to affected U.S. workers.

“There will be zero tolerance for companies that violate the Immigration and Nationality Act by hiring foreign visa holders over U.S. workers,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore of the Civil Rights Division. “The Division’s Protecting U.S. Workers Initiative is committed to fighting discriminatory hiring practices that prevent qualified U.S. workers from obtaining jobs, and we commend Texas RioGrande Legal Aid for bringing this matter to our attention.”

The settlement is part of the Division’s Protecting U.S. Workers Initiative, an initiative aimed at targeting, investigating, and bringing enforcement actions against companies that discriminate against U.S. workers in favor of foreign visa workers.

The Division’s Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER), formerly known as the Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices, 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; unfair documentary practices; retaliation; and intimidation.

For more information about protections against employment discrimination under immigration laws, call IER’s worker hotline at 1-800-255-7688 (1-800-237-2515, TTY for hearing impaired); call IER’s employer hotline at 1-800-255-8155 (1-800-237-2515, TTY for hearing impaired); sign up for a free webinar; email IER@usdoj.gov; or visit IER’s English and Spanish websites.

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, should contact IER’s worker hotline for assistance.

FAIR HOUSING NEWS (Dec. 2017)

Monday, December 18th, 2017

Dear Colleague,

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced today that it reached a Conciliation Agreement with the owner and property manager of Shadowbrook Gardens Senior Townhomes in Morgan Hill, California, a city in Santa Clara County, resolving allegations that they discriminated against a resident with disabilities. Read the Conciliation Agreement.

The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in the sale or rental of a dwelling because of disability, including prohibiting residents from having live-in assistance and refusing to make reasonable accommodations in policies or practices when a person with a disability requires such an accommodation.

“Residents with disabilities have the right to reasonable accommodations that allow them to use and enjoy their home, without unnecessary and invasive questioning,” said Anna María Farías, HUD’s Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “HUD will continue to work with housing providers to ensure they meet their obligation to comply with national fair housing laws.”

The agreement resolves a complaint brought by a resident with a mobility impairment alleging that the owner and property manager of Shadowbrook Gardens discriminated against her because of her disability. According to the complaint, she requested to have a live-in aide and a key to a locked gate near her unit that would make it easier for her to come and go. In both instances, the owner and property manager allegedly asked her intrusive questions about her disability, challenged whether she really had a disability, asserted that the development was for individuals who could live independently, and ultimately denied her requests. The nonprofit group Project Sentinel, a HUD Fair Housing Initiatives Program agency, assisted the resident with filing her complaint and later filed its own complaint.

Under the terms of the Conciliation Agreement, the owner and property manager will pay $4,000 to the resident and $7,000 to Project Sentinel, which will use the money to further its fair housing mission. The agreement also requires the owner to keep the gate near the resident’s unit unlocked or provide her with a key; allows the resident to have a live-in caregiver; and requires the owner and property manager to obtain fair housing training and implement a reasonable accommodation policy that complies with the Fair Housing Act.

People who believe they have 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 hud.gov/fairhousing, or by downloading HUD’s free housing discrimination mobile application, which can be accessed through Apple and Android devices.

Justice Department’s Immigrant and Employee Rights Section Offers Webinars for Advocates (Dec. 2017)

Sunday, December 17th, 2017

The Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER) is offering a number of free, informative webinars for the public in December and January. These include webinars for workers, employers, and advocates. Please review IER’s webinar schedule to choose the right presentation for you.

IER enforces the anti-discrimination provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act. This law prohibits citizenship, immigration status, and national origin discrimination in hiring, firing, or recruitment or referral for a fee; unfair documentary practices; retaliation and intimidation. For more information visit www.justice.gov/ier.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017 at 2:00 pm ET
IER Worker/Advocate webinar

Wednesday, January 10, 2018 at 2:00 pm ET
IER Worker Advocate webinar

Thursday, January 25, 2018 at 11:00 am ET
IER Employer/HR Representative webinar

Immigrant and Employee Rights: Saipan Restaurant Distributes $40,000 in Back Pay to U.S. Workers Under Justice Department Settlement (Dec. 2017)

Sunday, December 10th, 2017

The Justice Department announced today that J.E.T. Holding Co. Inc. (JET) has paid $40,000 to nine U.S. citizens pursuant to a settlement with the department. The payments, which JET distributed last week, are part of a Jan. 17, 2017, settlement that resolved claims that JET discriminated against U.S. workers in favor of temporary foreign visa workers, in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

In its investigation leading up to the settlement, the department found that from approximately January to June 2016, JET, which operates a restaurant in Saipan, routinely refused to hire qualified U.S. citizens and other work-authorized individuals, including lawful permanent residents, for dishwasher positions because of their citizenship status. Instead, JET preferred to fill the positions with temporary foreign visa workers, according to the department’s investigation. Under the INA, employers cannot prefer to hire temporary foreign visa workers over available and qualified U.S. workers based on citizenship status. Individuals born in Saipan are U.S. citizens and its population includes work-authorized lawful permanent residents, asylees and refugees.

After the investigation was resolved through a settlement, the department’s Civil Rights Division and the United States Attorney Office for the District of Guam collaborated to identify individuals affected by the alleged discrimination. The department determined that nine U.S. citizens were eligible to receive back pay, and the payments JET distributed to them last week exhausted the $40,000 back pay fund established under the agreement.

“We are pleased that U.S. workers received back pay to compensate them for the discrimination they faced, and that JET has worked to improve its hiring practices,” said John M. Gore, Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department is committed to holding employers accountable when they place U.S. workers in a second class status.”

The division’s Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER) is responsible for enforcing the anti-discrimination provision of the INA. The law prohibits, among other things, citizenship, immigration status and national origin discrimination in hiring, firing or recruitment or referral for a fee; unfair documentary practices in employment eligibility verification; retaliation; and intimidation.

In February 2017, IER launched its Protecting U.S. Workers Initiative, an initiative aimed at targeting, investigating, and bringing enforcement actions against companies that discriminate against U.S. workers in favor of foreign visa workers. IER filed the first suit as part of the Initiative in October against a Loveland, Colorado, company for allegedly discriminating against U.S. workers.

To learn more about the protections against employment discrimination under immigration laws, call IER’s worker hotline at 1-800-255-7688 (1-800-237-2515, TTY for hearing impaired); call IER’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.gov(link sends e-mail); or visit IER’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 the worker hotline above for assistance.

Office of Disability Employment Policy Newsletter (Dec. 8, 2017)

Sunday, December 10th, 2017

Careers in the Arts Dialogue Starts Today Through December 15
Today through December 15, you’re invited to participate in an ePolicyWorks online dialogue hosted by ODEP and the National Endowment for the Arts. This dialogue will gather valuable input on ways to foster the inclusion of people with disabilities in the arts. Feedback from this dialogue will inform NEA’s effort to create a comprehensive toolkit to help students and job seekers with disabilities thrive in careers in the arts. Please join this crowdsourcing event to submit your ideas, votes, and comments on the strategies, challenges, and solutions that will help create better employment opportunities.

ODEP Publishes #ApprenticeshipWorks Guides
Apprenticeship is a growing strategy for connecting more workers with the skills they need to get jobs. ODEP’s efforts in apprenticeship promote inclusive program models that fulfill employer needs by attracting a diverse array of candidates, including people with disabilities. ODEP released its #ApprenticeshipWorks Guides for Youth, Educators/Service Providers, and Business which introduce each stakeholder group to the benefits and opportunities of inclusive apprenticeship. ODEP published a blog about apprenticeships and disability, titled “Apprenticeship and the American Dream.” The blog examines the many advantages of apprenticeships in today’s economy for both employers and employees, including individuals with disabilities.

Two New Posts from the Ask JAN Blog
The Job Accommodation Network has posted two new blogs. In a piece titled “Breaking the Mold with Workplace Accommodations,” Brittany Lambert, Consultant on the JAN Sensory and Cognitive/Neurological Teams, discusses the topic of accommodating employees with mold allergies. In “Observations from the 2017 Harkin Summit,” Lou Orslene, JAN Co-Director, reflects on his attendance at the Harkin Summit on Global Disability Employment, held November 2-3, 2017. The Summit brought together employers, nonprofit organizations, foundations, and others to focus on the employment of people with disabilities.

JAN Releases Latest “Consultants’ Corner” on Disability Awareness Training
Through the Job Accommodation Network’s “Consultants’ Corner,” JAN consultants provide advice and guidance on important issues related to accommodations in the workplace. In the latest feature, Melanie Whetzel, Lead Consultant on the JAN Cognitive/Neurological Team, highlights the situations that may arise with co-workers when an employee receives an accommodation. Since employers cannot disclose disability-related information about an employee to others, sometimes misunderstandings can occur when someone appears to be receiving “special” treatment. Whetzel presents several solutions, including providing disability awareness training to all employees and informing them of their right to accommodations should they need them.

New ODEP Policies in Practice Profile — John Winfrey
John Winfrey is a Senior Technical Account Manager and Cloud Service Delivery Manager at Microsoft. John, who is legally blind, leads a team that supports government sector clients. He is also a Section 508 coordinator, helping ensure that Microsoft products are accessible to everyone. At work, he uses magnification software and large screen monitors as accommodations. In his spare time, John is a volunteer with the Knights of Columbus, and enjoys spending time with his grandchildren.

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