A New Genre of Discrimination? Smokers Need Not Apply

February 19, 2012 - by: Diversity Insight 6 COMMENTS

By Susan Hartmus Hiser

Q: Our company is considering implementing a policy that would make individuals who smoke ineligible for employment. In doing so, we would save a substantial amount of money on our insurance premiums. Can we do this? If so, how do we monitor employees who claim they have quit smoking?

A: Many industries are implementing or considering “no-smokers” policies. Basically, the premise is that insurance companies are lowering their premiums for companies that have policies prohibiting employees from smoking. However, these are not your typical “no-smoking- in-the-workplace” policies. These policies prohibit employees from smoking ― period, regardless of whether they’re on the job. In addition to lowering health insurance premiums, many employers argue that hiring smokers increases production costs because of smoke breaks and high absenteeism from smoking-related illnesses. read more…

Categories: Q&A

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Firing Someone for Not Acting Enough Like a Man Is Discrimination

February 19, 2012 - by: Diversity Insight 1 COMMENTS

By Donna Eich Brooks

The headline of this article was worded very specifically. You may have seen write-ups on a recent opinion from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit (the federal appeals court for Alabama, Florida, and Georgia) that announced some seismic shift in the law like “Transgendered persons protected from discrimination” or “Getting a sex change is now protected.” Racy headlines are good for drawing attention. But in this case, it’s important to focus on what the decision really stands for: You are on dangerous ground when you start trying to mandate how femininely or masculinely someone should act.

To Everything There Is a Season . . .

Vandiver Elizabeth Glenn (although her name changes throughout her story, we’ll refer to her as “Glenn”) was born a biological male named Glenn Morrison. From the time he hit puberty, Glenn felt he was a woman, and in 2005, he was diagnosed with gender identity disorder. That same year, he started taking steps to transition from male to female under medical supervision. read more…

New Tax Credits Available for Hiring Veterans

February 19, 2012 - by: Diversity Insight 0 COMMENTS

By H. Mark Adams and B. Trevor Wilson

Employers now have a powerful new incentive for hiring recently discharged and other unemployed veterans. Under the Veterans Opportunity to Work (VOW) to Hire Heroes Act of 2011, enacted by Congress this past November, employers may receive significant income work opportunity tax credits for hiring unemployed veterans, including:

  • 40 percent of the employee’s first year’s wages, up to $6,000 (i.e., a tax credit of up to $2,400) for each veteran hired who receives Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits;
  • 40 percent of first-year wages, up to $6,000 (i.e., a tax credit of up to $2,400) for each veteran hired who was unemployed for a period of at least four weeks but less than six months during the year ending on the hire date;
  • 40 percent of first-year wages, up to $12,000 (i.e., a tax credit of up to $4,800) for each veteran hired who has a service- connected disability and is hired not more than one year after being discharged or released from active duty; read more…

Employing People with Disabilities: What Does New Proposed Rule Mean?

January 15, 2012 - by: admin 2 COMMENTS

By Tammy Binford

Government statistics show that unemployment among people with disabilities is far higher than unemployment for people without disabilities. Year-end figures for 2011 are not yet available, but the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has figures revealing that the 2010 unemployment rate for people with disabilities was 14.8 percent. That’s more than one and a half times higher than the rate for people without disabilities, which was 9.4 percent.

What may be more startling than the unemployment rate is the number of people with disabilities who aren’t even in the labor force at all. According to data published in December by the BLS, 79.2 percent of working-age individuals with disabilities are outside the labor force, compared to 30.5 percent of those without disabilities.

Now the federal government is trying to take steps to narrow the employment gap between those with and without disabilities by proposing that federal contractors and subcontractors set a hiring goal of having seven percent of their workforces be made up of people with disabilities. read more…

Categories: Feature

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EEOC Reports Record Highs, Reductions in 2011

January 15, 2012 - by: admin 0 COMMENTS

According to the annual Performance and Accountability Report released in November, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) finished fiscal year 2011 with a 10 percent decrease in its pending-charge inventory, the first such reduction since 2002. At the same time, the agency achieved the highest-ever monetary amounts through administrative enforcement, and it received a record number of discrimination charges.

The fiscal year ended on September 30, 2011, with 78,136 pending charges, a decrease of 8,202 charges. The agency received 99,947 discrimination charges during the fiscal year — the most in the agency’s 46-year history. More than $364.6 million in monetary benefits was recovered in workplace discrimination cases — another highest-ever-in-agency-history figure. The report also estimates that the EEOC’s public outreach and education programs reached approximately 540,000 persons directly. read more…

Categories: Diversity Trends

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Recent Court Decisions Highlight the ADA’s “Association” Provision

January 15, 2012 - by: admin 0 COMMENTS

By Susan W. Kline

In addition to prohibiting discrimination against qualified employees and applicants with disabilities, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employment discrimination against someone, regardless of whether he has a disability, because of his known relationship or association with a disabled person. The disabled person with whom the employee or applicant is associated need not be a family member for the protection to apply. The focus is on whether the employer treated the applicant or employee worse than others based on his relationship or association with a disabled person. Several recent court decisions involving “association” claims under the ADA illustrate how these protections operate.

Three Types of Claims

The Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which has jurisdiction over Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin, has defined three distinct types of association discrimination claims under the ADA. read more…

National Employment Law Trends

January 15, 2012 - by: admin 0 COMMENTS

Last year is ended on a high note, at least in terms of one economic indicator: the nation’s unemployment rate fell to 8.5 percent in December. Despite that good news, many states are still experiencing record unemployment; this rampant unemployment was the number one issue addressed by state legislatures this past year. Here is a brief look some key issues state legislatures tackled in 2011:

  • In an effort to modernize and update their programs, as well to pull down available federal funds, several states overhauled their unemployment compensation laws.
  • Maine and Pennsylvania added work-sharing laws.
  • New Jersey, Illinois, Michigan, and New York passed laws prohibiting employers from discriminating against the unemployed when hiring. A proposed federal law is also pending in both the House and Senate. read more…

Categories: Just the Facts

Boomers Mean Business

December 11, 2011 - by: admin 1 COMMENTS

By Marcia Akers

Baby Boomers are now entering their retirement years while some members of “The Greatest Generation” remain in the workforce. Gen Xers and Yers are looking for advancement and rewarding entry-level positions. This first-ever phenomenon of having four generations in the workplace at the same time is creating challenges for employers, including how to create a safe and pleasant environment while capitalizing on the unique resources, experiences, and talents that each group has to offer.

These intergenerational workplace issues have been studied by Chris Weiser, who leads an employee group at Sodexo. “It’s not like Gen-Xers and Gen-Yers need to be like their Baby Boomer boss . . . or Baby Boomers have to learn to text 140 words a minute,” Weiser says. “It’s about understanding that everyone has some style differences.” A high-functioning, age-diverse workforce can be a primary contributor to a company’s current stability and future growth.

read more…

Categories: Feature


Review Applicants’ Criminal History Cautiously

December 11, 2011 - by: admin 0 COMMENTS

By Kara E. Shea

Employers are understandably hesitant to hire an applicant with a criminal history. There are good reasons to exercise caution ― employers face considerable exposure for workplace violence committed by employees.

The U.S. Department of Labor‘s Occupational Safety and Health Administration regularly cites employers that have failed to enact adequate safeguards against workplace violence. Employers also may be sued in private lawsuits based on negligent hiring or retention of employees who commit workplace violence.

read more…

Supreme Court Denies Wal-Mart Class-Action

December 11, 2011 - by: admin 0 COMMENTS

By Megan E. Snyder

The U.S. Supreme Court recently handed down a decision in Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, a landmark case involving 1.5 million female current and former Wal-Mart employees who attempted to challenge the retail giant’s employment practices. Essentially, the women complained that local stores have too much discretion in making decisions about compensation and promotions, resulting in numerous discriminatory employment decisions. The case redefines (and narrows) a key requirement to certification of class-action suits ― that is, commonality among the members of the proposed class. The Court’s decision offers some relief to employers facing class-action wage and hour litigation suits.

General Class-Action Requirements

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Categories: Legal News


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