Federal government touts increase in employment of people with disabilities

November 18, 2012 - by: Diversity Insight 0 COMMENTS

When President Obama signed Executive Order 13548 on July 26, 2010, he specifically set a goal of hiring 100,000 people with disabilities by 2015. The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) not only lead federal agencies in the first two quarters of 2012 with 4.2 percent of all new hires being people with disabilities, the agency also trained 3,000 federal employees from more than 56 agencies on recruitment techniques for finding and hiring people with disabilities.

“People with disabilities are welcome in the federal family,” said OPM Director John Berry. “We need the talents and creativity of all people—including people with disabilities—to help do the work of the American people.  We are doing anything possible to remove barriers to their employment, and the good news is that we’re moving in the right direction, and you can see it in the numbers.”

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Finding work-life balance in a workforce with diverse needs

October 14, 2012 - by: Diversity Insight 2 COMMENTS

by Tammy Binford

Work-life balance gets a lot of buzz in the workplace. Everyone is concerned about being productive at work while saving time for other important parts of life. Just the term work-life balance can invoke an image of employees teetering on a tightrope, with career, family, friends, hobbies, and other interests pulling from both sides and threatening their balance.

Often discussions of how to maintain balance emphasize the demands of work and family. Workers want flexibility to care for their children by leaving work for parent-teacher conferences, soccer games, music lessons, and the myriad other things on a parent’s plate.

But it’s not just employees with spouses and children who crave flexibility and other perks, and singles are speaking out about their own needs. They’re also voicing concerns that the deck sometimes seems to be stacked in favor of married workers and those with families. read more…

Reassignment as a reasonable accommodation under the ADA

by Burton J. Fishman

Of the many contentious accommodation issues under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), perhaps the most hotly debated is whether reassignment to a vacant position is a reasonable accommodation. Although the ADA lists “reassignment” as a possible accommodation and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) supports that position, many courts have been reluctant to accept this part of an ambiguous statute at face value. The abiding issues are whether disability “trumped” all other work-related factors and whether the disabled had a superior place among protected groups.

Reassignment complications

It isn’t difficult to imagine the kinds of conflicts reassignment as an accommodation creates. What if:

  • The disabled employee is minimally qualified with few hopes of improvement?
  • There are better-qualified candidates who had bid for the open job?
  • Among the better-qualified candidates are members of other statutorily protected groups (e.g., racial minorities, women, foreign- born workers, or individuals over 40)?
  • Among the better-qualified protected employees there are other disabled employees who don’t need an accommodation to do the job? read more…

Say what? Asking employees to take language classes

by Brad Cave

Q: Will I be in violation of federal discrimination laws if I provide an “English as a second language” (ESL) employee English language training at the company’s expense?

A Any possible discrimination charge under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 would be based on national origin. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has promulgated express guidelines for employers with employees who don’t speak English as their primary language. The agency has recognized that employers sometimes have legitimate business reasons for basing employment decisions on linguistic characteristics, but because those characteristics are closely associated with national origin, you must be careful to ensure that the business reasons you rely on justify any burdens placed on employees because of their national origin.

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Faithfully expecting: religious accommodations and employer-mandated vaccination policies

An “informal discussion letter” from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) indicates that employers should carefully weigh religious objections by pregnant employees, specifically in the context of employer-mandated vaccination policies.


In February 2012, a healthcare provider wrote the EEOC requesting a formal interpretation of the application of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, to healthcare workers’ requests for exemption from employer-mandated vaccinations. The healthcare provider specifically asked whether hospitals must accommodate their employees’ religious objections to mandatory vaccinations and whether an accommodation must be considered for a pregnant worker who refuses to take a vaccine. The EEOC didn’t issue any formal guidelines, but it did release an informal advisory letter. We want to ensure you are aware of the agency’s position on the matter. read more…

Who let the dogs out?

by J. David Kutch

A Palm Beach State College (PBSC) student received permission from the school to use a service dog trained to help her deal with the effects of her psychiatric disorders. However, she failed her classes and was escorted off the campus at times, apparently because two offices at the school had different positions on allowing the dog in class. Sick of the song and dance, the student ended up in court asking for permission to continue bringing her service dog to class. She won.

Although this case didn’t involve a dispute between an employer and employee, the court’s decision has some implications for your compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It’s important to note that the accommodation would likely be the same in an employment case.

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Technology can make the workplace more accessible to the disabled

September 16, 2012 - by: Diversity Insight 0 COMMENTS

by Tammy Binford

It’s natural to question what the future will bring to the workplace. How many more resources will the Internet make available? What new apps have the potential to revolutionize the world of work? How will technology enable employees to overcome disabilities?

The questions – and answers – seem limitless as technology advances at a dizzying pace. Those in the workforce for even a short time have seen innovations bring groundbreaking change. And change isn’t likely to slow.

Role of technology

More and more employers are being called on to use technology to make the workplace accessible to employees and applicants with disabilities. The federal government continues to encourage – some would say force – employers to reach out to people with disabilities.

In July, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) announced that in fiscal year 2011, employees with disabilities represented 7.41 percent of the overall federal government workforce and 11 percent when the figures included veterans who are 30 percent or more disabled. read more…

Additional efforts to employ disabled people proposed by Senator

by Burton J. Fishman

Over the past 35 years, perhaps the greatest expansion in civil rights has involved individuals with disabilities. In virtually every realm of American life, from elementary education to professional sports, accommodations for the disabled have become commonplace. The genesis of this profound alteration of attitudes and practices has been debated for at least three decades.

For some, it is a natural extension of the human rights agenda, especially important in an aging society. For others, it is a misplaced expansion of the hyper individualism of the late 20th century, which insists in various ways that no student fails and no employee is unqualified. What makes the debate of critical importance is the role of government to impose and enforce laws, rules, and regulations mandating special treatment. The U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) proposed regulations to compel federal contractors to fill seven percent of all jobs with disabled workers is the latest example of the belief that solutions to complicated problems are but one more regulation away. read more…

The most homogenous place on Earth?

by Mark I. Schickman

Remembering that employment discrimination has been illegal for less than 50 years, workplace accommodation has come a long way.

The first accommodation laws protected people with cancer, back when cancer was feared to be contagious. The law was put to the test when it was applied to protect people infected with HIV/AIDS, and employers were reluctant to offer the protections guaranteed by law. But over the decades, those fears waned, it’s universally settled and recognized that the law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities, and the prejudice against cancer victims has virtually disappeared.

The law was tested again when it was expanded beyond prohibiting disability discrimination and mandated the provision of affirmative accommodations to qualified employees with disabilities. There was concern that job quality would suffer and that required accommodations would cost huge dollars. In practice, reasonable accommodations generally have gone smoothly, with most accommodations costing below $200 and good performance of essential job functions something that employers can still require under the law. read more…

“Deferred action” policy now in place for immigrant youth

September 16, 2012 - by: Utah Employment Law Letter 0 COMMENTS

by Elaine Young

President Barack Obama recently announced a new immigration enforcement policy that opens new doors to thousands of immigrant youths. An estimated 800,000 young people have graduated from American high schools but aren’t authorized to work in the United States because they are here unlawfully. The new policy gives them a degree of legal protection from deportation and will authorize employment.

Requirements for “deferred action” status

Under the policy, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will not initiate deportation proceedings against any undocumented youth who meets all of the following five criteria: read more…

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