The rural-urban divide in America has had people talking since the 2016 presidential election, which showed a marked difference in the way urban and rural areas tend to vote. The 2016 election wasn’t the first sign of a divide, and individuals in both rural and urban areas often defy aggregate data, but various statistics show differences in attitudes and political opinions that seem to be defined by whether an area is urban or rural.
Such divisions also can be found in the workplace. For years, employers have touted the advantages of diversity and have worked toward racial, ethnic, religious, and gender diversity. But what about geographic diversity? Is there a business advantage to attracting a mix of people from rural and urban backgrounds?
Employment laws prohibit intentional discrimination based on race, sex, or other protected characteristics as well as practices that have a discriminatory impact if they’re not supported by business necessity. Implicit or unconscious bias isn’t technically unlawful in the workplace if it doesn’t cause an unjustified adverse impact.
Yet a presidential candidate in the most-watched debate ever recently responded to a question about whether she “believed that police are implicitly biased against black people” by stating, “Implicit bias is a problem for everyone, not just police.” The FBI director also recently acknowledged overwhelming research demonstrating the presence of widespread unconscious biases and the way in which those biases may manifest in policing.
Searching for employment often feels like one of life’s most difficult challenges. The job seeker has to find a suitable position, go through the application process, hope to advance to the interview stage, and then find a way to stand out in what may be a crowd of applicants vying for the same job.
Employers looking for the right hire face equally daunting challenges. Matching a position to someone with the right skills, experience, and attitude is no easy task, but successful employers develop methods to help them find the right talent. When reaching out to applicants with some type of disability, though, they may need to alter their process.
by Cristopher Willis
Each year, the United States grants 85,000 H-1B employment visas, and every single one is highly sought after by American companies. These temporary work visas allow companies to hire international applicants with college degrees—often advanced—in a variety of fields, such as medicine and health care, engineering, architecture, accounting, and the arts.
H-1B visas broaden the pool of highly skilled workers from which an employer can draw, and federal guidelines allow their use only when American workers cannot be found. What’s not to love? Just ask the hundreds of Disney employees who were recently laid off.
As Veterans Day approaches, the nation looks at ways to honor those who have served in the military. But honors alone don’t get former service members employed once they re-enter the civilian world. So employers need not just an understanding of the legal requirements related to employing or reemploying veterans; they also need to understand the attributes veterans bring and the challenges they face when searching for civilian employment.
Paul J. Sweeney, an attorney with Coughlin & Gerhart, LLP in Binghamton, New York, logged 29 years of active and reserve service in the Marine Corps, including a deployment to Iraq. He points to important benefits employers enjoy when hiring veterans. “As a general rule, the armed forces sets high standards when recruiting service members,” Sweeney says. “Unlike the general population, more than nine out of 10 of those who enlist in the armed forces have a high school degree. Also, the armed forces screens out those with criminal convictions and drug issues.”
Asking illegal or inappropriate interview questions is one of the easiest ways for an employer to create a risk for discrimination claims. It isn’t unusual for polite, friendly, personal, non-job-specific conversation to be part of the interview process. However, when conducting an interview, you must always be aware that even indirect or inadvertent questions about a protected characteristic can give rise to a discrimination claim.
Friendly may mean illegal
Good job descriptions are vital in keeping employers and employees on the same page, but they take on added importance when an employee with a disability needs help being productive. And for employers facing disability discrimination claims, job descriptions that clearly outline the essential and nonessential functions of the job can be crucial.
Although the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) doesn’t require employers to have written job descriptions, they are practical, according to Mary Topliff, a San Francisco attorney specializing in employment law, counseling, training, and compliance. She gave employers tips on job descriptions during a recent Business & Legal Resources webinar and emphasized the importance of carefully considering how the ADA affects job descriptions.
As October nears, employers may be hearing a lot about how people with disabilities can benefit the workplace. Every year, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) designates October as a time to raise awareness about the value of employing people with disabilities.
This year’s theme–“Because We Are EQUAL to the Task”–was chosen to show employers “the reality that people with disabilities have the education, training, experience, and desire to be successful in the workplace,” according to an announcement from ODEP.