Employing Developmentally Disabled Can Be a Win-Win

Individuals with serious disabilities encounter many difficulties when attempting to enter the workforce. They may have physical or mental deficiencies that make it difficult, if not impossible, to become competitively employed. There are, however, incentives and exceptions to normal workplace rules that “even the playing field” for employees and employers alike.

Undoubtedly, many employers think that employing a developmentally disabled worker is fraught with pitfalls. You may worry about making all the necessary accommodations. Or maybe you’re concerned about the disabled individual’s interactions with coworkers (and vice versa) or how reliable he’ll be. There are many legitimate concerns. However, employing the developmentally disabled can be a win-win situation for everyone involved. The disabled individual is empowered by his employment and you provide a service to the individual and the community at large. Several incentives are available to employers to encourage employment of the developmentally disabled.

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Categories: Feature

Happy Birthday, Jesus

Employment law attorney Justin Pierce tackles the tough question of whether an employer should allow an employee to hang a “Happy Birthday, Jesus” sign in his office.

Q Last year at Christmas, one of our employees, we’ll call him “Bob,” put up a small sign in his office that read “Happy Birthday, Jesus.” A non- Christian employee was recently heard saying that he was offended by the sign last year and that if Bob puts it up again this year, he’s going to file a complaint. We figured it’s better to find out now how to react to an anticipated complaint that may come as a result of the sign. If Bob puts the sign up again, should we tell him to take it down? If not, what do we do if another employee complains about the sign?

A You shouldn’t tell Bob to take the sign down if he puts it up again. Given the circumstances, I think that if you asked him to take it down, you could wind up defending a claim of failure to accommodate Bob’s religious beliefs. Now, as a footnote to that, you might have a technical defense that displaying a sign isn’t an accommodation that would be required for Bob to practice his religion. But given that we’re talking about a small sign in an office (as opposed to him bringing in an eight-foot Christmas tree and stringing blinking lights all across his office), I think it’s too risky to rely exclusively on that sort of a technical defense.

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Categories: Q&A

Events Can Help Build Camaraderie

The workplace isn’t meant to be a play zone, but workers who feel a sense of camaraderie tend to be more effective and satisfied. That is especially important in an office where employees come from diverse backgrounds because it serves to build a common bond, which should lead to better working relationships. Try to promote that sense of camaraderie through occasional company-sponsored events. Here are some ideas that will be free or relatively cheap for you while encouraging your employees to have fun together and build relationships within your company:

  • Have potluck lunches with a theme.

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Categories: Ideas for Leaders

EEOC Reaches Record ADA Settlement with Sears

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently announced a record-setting settlement resolving a class-action lawsuit against Sears, Roebuck and Co. under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for $6.2 million and significant remedial relief. The consent decree, approved on September 29, represents the largest ADA settlement in a single lawsuit in EEOC history. The EEOC’s suit alleged that Sears maintained an inflexible workers’ compensation leave exhaustion policy and terminated employees instead of providing them with reasonable accommodations for their disabilities in violation of the ADA.

The case arose from a discrimination charge filed with the EEOC by a former Sears service technician. According to the commission, the employee was injured on the job, took workers’ comp leave, and, although still disabled by his injuries, repeatedly attempted to return to work. The EEOC alleged that Sears never provided the employee with a reasonable accommodation that would have put him back to work and instead fired him when his leave expired. According to EEOC, discovery in the lawsuit (the pretrial exchange of evidence) revealed that hundreds of other employees who had taken workers’ comp leave were also terminated and that Sears never seriously considered reasonable accommodations to return them to work while they were on leave or seriously considered whether a brief extension of their leave would make their return possible.

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Categories: Legal News

Celebrating Halloween in a Diverse Workplace

Allowing your employees to celebrate Halloween can be a fun experience and a great way to promote motivation and engagement. If you don’t plan ahead, however, you could be in for some scary results.

Probably the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Halloween is costumes, and many offices allow employees to dress up for the holiday. Some even encourage it with costume contests. Unfortunately, there’s always the possibility that someone’s poor judgment in costume choice will offend a coworker or customer.

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Categories: Feature

Mandatory Diversity Training Counterproductive

October 18, 2009 - by: Diversity Insight 0 COMMENTS

According to a study led by University of Arizona sociologist Alexandra Kalev, mandatory diversity training may do more harm than good while voluntary training designed to advance the company’s business goals pays off in increased diversity in management.

The study examined 31 years of data from 830 midsize to large U.S. workplaces and found that the kind of diversity training used at most organizations was followed by a 7.5 percent drop in the number of women in management, a 10 percent drop in the number of black female managers, and a 12 percent drop in the number of black men in top positions.

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Categories: Ideas for Leaders

Bathroom Etiquette Should Not Influence Hiring

By Robert P. Tinnin, Jr.

Q: This morning I interviewed an applicant for a clerical position in our company. She appeared to be an attractive, personable young woman and was very engaging during the interview. However, I soon learned that “she” is really a “he,” at least anatomically. She told me she is preparing to undergo a sex-change operation but hasn’t yet done so, although she has adopted a female identity. She asked whether, if she were hired, she would be permitted to use the women’s restroom. Frankly, I was a bit taken aback and didn’t know how to respond. I told her I would have to check into the matter. If I hire her, would I have to let her use the women’s restroom? Couldn’t I avoid the issue altogether by simply not hiring her?

A: I would strongly suggest you not attempt to avoid the issue by refusing to hire her. Not hiring her would very likely expose your company to a charge of discrimination — and, potentially, a lawsuit with exposure to damages for emotional distress as well as attorneys’ fees and costs.

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Categories: Q&A

Supreme Court Makes Pivotal ADEA Decision

October 18, 2009 - by: Diversity Insight 0 COMMENTS

By Natalie Ramsey

In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court recently rejected the mixed-motive framework for disparate treatment claims filed under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). In reaching this pivotal decision, the Court made it clear that the analysis for age discrimination isn’t subject to the one-size-fits-all mixed-motive analysis applied in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 cases.

Rather, the ADEA’s statutory language calls for a showing that age was “the” motivating factor rather than “a” motivating factor in proving disparate treatment. The ruling is a victory for employers because it requires employees to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that age was the reason for the adverse employment decision, as opposed to simply a reason.

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Categories: Legal News

Hiring Military Veterans Makes Sense

September 20, 2009 - by: Diversity Insight 1 COMMENTS

U.S. troops have already begun leaving some Iraqi cities, and we now are about a year away from the target deadline the Obama administration has set for pulling a significant number of combat troops out of that country. The United States has more than 140,000 men and women currently serving in Iraq, all of whom we hope will be returning home and most of whom will someday return to the civilian workforce.

Additionally, there are thousands of employable veterans searching for jobs now. To remind you why military veterans make such good employees, the people at http://www.dol.gov/vets/ have put together a list of the top 10 reasons to hire vets:

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Categories: Feature

Aging Workers Present Golden Opportunities

September 20, 2009 - by: Diversity Insight 0 COMMENTS

By Gary Jiles

A wise employer recognizes that with age comes solid work experience. Thus, it is beneficial to both you and the employee to accommodate the needs of your aging employees. While an older workforce may trigger a few considerations, flexibility and additional training can ensure that your employees (and business) continue to prosper.

Baby Boomers are all grown up and represent a large portion of today’s workforce. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 40 percent of people age 55 and older consider themselves part of the workforce. Before the recession, many companies were becoming increasingly aware of the needs of older workers. However, many initiatives aimed at meeting those needs have been scrapped because of tumultuous financial times. Labor experts now fear that employers are woefully unprepared to meet the needs of the aging labor force.

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Categories: Boomers

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